Healthcare in New Zealand

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New Zealand is located on the south-western part of the Pacific Ocean. The country is composed of two large islands, namely the South Island and the North Island and a hundred other smaller islands; the most notable of which are the Chatham Islands and Stewart Island.

New Zealand healthcare at a glance

Before you finally decide to migrate to New Zealand, it is important that you fully understand the healthcare system, since it greatly varies from European and American medical systems. It is essential that you know what you will be paying for, the levels of healthcare to expect, and where to find medical specialists.

The first thing that you should be aware of is the certain degrees of care that are offered for free under the public healthcare scheme. This applies to residents and to those with working permits which allow them to temporary reside in New Zealand. These services include prescriptions and treatments at public hospitals, x-rays and laboratory tests (when carried out in a public hospital or clinic), service charges for pregnant women, dental care for children of school age and breast screenings for women aged fifty and over. Other free services offered include subsidised general practitioner referral visits, treatments for patients suffering with chronic conditions and subsidised prescriptions for children aged six or below.

If you are truly attracted to the thought of living in the rural areas, be aware that healthcare services in these areas can be limited. With that in mind, you should also be aware of the fact that you may have to drive for quite a distance to seek basic medical assistance, as most of the specialists are located in large towns and cities. Aside from paying for your visits to your general practitioner, you will also have to pay for prescriptions and any dental treatments. These can be quite expensive, so international health insurance is recommended. This ensures that you are generally covered for medical expenses in the event of an emergency, that your daily medical needs are met, and that you are aware of what you will have to pay on your claims.

Standard of hospital care in New Zealand

Since there is a notable increase in the number of expatriates in New Zealand, the national government has made it a point to provide them with quality healthcare services. New Zealand has both private and government hospitals, and a number of specialist clinics located in certain parts of the country. The hospitals have the latest equipment in the medical industry, and their medical practitioners have received schooling and training from the top medical schools in the world. Therefore, the cost of hospitalisation can be expensive, especially in private medical facilities.
New Zealand has a three tier healthcare system: primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care.
Primary health care is co-ordinated through primary health organisations (PHO's) which receive capitation funding for their enrolled populations. Independent medical, nursing and allied practitioners provide most ambulatory health care services. Patients are free to enrol with a general practitioner (GP) of their choice.  Publicly owned hospitals provide most secondary and tertiary medical care. Patients have a choice of accessing publicly funded or privately funded secondary care services, depending on availability. GP referral is needed to access higher levels of care.

The small private hospital sector specialises mainly in elective surgery and long-term care.
A key player in health services delivery is the ‘third sector’, which refers to non-profit, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).These providers offer primary health care (PHC), community-based health services and disability support services, many of which are fully or partially publicly funded. The third sector includes union-based health services, and Māori and Pacific providers.


New Zealand has a number of standby ambulances prepared and properly equipped for emergency situations.


Medicines in New Zealand are notably more expensive than those sold in other countries. However, with the right healthcare system and private healthcare insurance, buying medicines becomes less of a financial concern.


Pharmacies in New Zealand are managed by experts who have practiced their profession for some time. New Zealand also has strict guidelines in relation to obtaining medicines that are not duly prescribed by the doctor.

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