Public Vs Private

Public hospital treatment is free for Australian citizens and permanent residents.  In public hospitals, medical care is usually provided by registrars and interns, ie doctors in training, who are supervised by senior doctors (consultants). Also, the date and time of surgery or procedures is decided by the hospital and not by the patient. The waiting times are determined by the level of urgency of your surgery and the number of patients already on the waiting list. Waiting times can vary widely and you should check with your local public hospital for local waiting times.


Private patients may also be treated in public hospitals. Whilst junior doctors will still have major involvement in care in the larger hospitals, the senior doctor will usually have more involvement with your case and will be available at your request.  Private specialists may recommend your procedure is done in a public hospital if your treatment needs highly specialised facilities that are only available in the public hospital.  


Lower levels of private health insurance, often known as “Basic” or “Bronze” cover, often don’t pay for private hospital care but will cover bed charges in public hospitals. If you have this sort of cover, you will usually find that care as a private patient in a public hospital will be free. Admission as a private patient at a public hospital is not supposed to allow you to avoid the waiting lists.


If a patient who does not have private health insurance goes to see a private specialist and is advised that he or she needs hospital care they will usually be referred to a public hospital. Depending on the urgency, they will usually be placed on a waiting list. Often, when they are admitted their care will be supervised by the specialist who referred them to the hospital (if he/she works at that hospital).