Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Kiwis could be turned away from Aussie hospitals

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Kiwis attempting to sidestep doctor's fees while holidaying in Australia could soon be turned away from Sydney hospitals.

The New South Wales Department of Health is drafting a new overseas policy to crackdown on a growing trend where tourists are visiting the emergency departments for minor ailments because it is free instead of paying to be seen by a GP in a private practice, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian government has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with New Zealand, the UK and some European countries, which entitles their citizens to free "medically necessary treatment" in public hospitals.

But the agreement does not include general practitioners in private practices and there have been claims tourists were abusing the agreement by going to the hospital for any kind of treatment.

Sydney's St Vincent's emergency services director Gordian Fulde told the Sydney Morning Herald the hospital had seen a 24 per cent increase in these treatments in 2013 compared to the previous year and a large number tourists wanting treatment for a variety of minor ailments including flu symptoms and chest infections.

A spokesperson New South Wales Ministry of Health told the Herald the policy is annually reviewed to reflect changes in line with Australian Government and any escalation of fees.

However any changes would only affect kiwis on visiting Australia on holidays because New Zealanders who were permanent residents of Australia or planning to be were eligible for Medicare, which covered free or subsidised treatment by health professionals in Australia.

Under the reciprocal agreement New Zealand has with Australia and the UK, their citizens are also eligible to publicly funded treatment at New Zealand hospitals. However DHBs contacted by the Herald said they followed the New Zealand government's guideline which advised over eligibility and did not have their own specific policies.

- NZ Herald

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