WA Health system

How can I get medical care?

There are different ways to get medical care in Western Australia.

In an emergency

Emergency departments

Emergency departments in public hospitals provide free emergency care to anyone who needs immediate treatment for a serious injury or illness.

You don't need an appointment to go to an emergency department. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In the Perth metropolitan area, WA Health emergency department doctors and nurses are always on duty. Country hospitals and nursing posts can arrange emergency services.

If you need urgent medical attention go to the nearest emergency department. You can also see WA Health emergency department activity now.

How do I know if I need emergency care?

You should go to an emergency department if you have a serious or life-threatening condition.

If you are unsure if you need emergency medical care you can telephone healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 for health advice. Healthdirect Australia is a 24 hour, seven day a week health advice line available to anyone calling from within Western Australia. Experienced registered nurses will provide immediate advice on how urgent your problem is and what to do about it.

How can I get to an emergency department?

If you have time and your medical condition allows it, a family member or friend can take you to the emergency department.

If you need urgent transport to an emergency department, telephone triple zero (000) and ask the operator for the ambulance service.

There are costs for ambulance travel. Find out more about the cost of ambulance services (external site) and free and discounted ambulance services for seniors.

What happens when I arrive at an emergency department?

When you arrive in the emergency department a triage nurse will assess your condition.

You will then be given a triage category, with triage 1 being people in need of urgent care and triage 5 being those with less urgent needs. Patients are seen in order of medical urgency, so triage 1 patients will always be treated ahead of other patients.

Do I pay for emergency department care?

You can get free emergency medical care at a WA Health emergency department if you have a Medicare card (external site). If you are from an overseas country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (external site) with Australia you can get free emergency treatment once you prove your citizenship, such as by showing your passport.

If you do not have a Medicare card you will have to pay for your medical care.

Private hospital emergency departments

You will pay for medical care received in the emergency department of a private hospital.

General medical advice

If it’s not urgent...

Find out more about your health care options including:

  • self-care
  • pharmacy
  • healthdirect
  • GP/doctor

After hours medical care

Some GPs work outside of normal working hours, such as evenings and weekends. See the GP After Hours directory.

Poisons Information Centre

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for advice about possible poisoning, medication errors, bites and stings.

Mental health emergencies

For confidential after-hours mental health emergency services in the Perth metropolitan area, call the Mental Health Emergency Response Line on 1300 555 788.

If you live in the Peel area, call 1800 676 822.

If you live in country areas of Western Australia, call RuralLink on 1800 552 002.

Planned hospital care

Most hospital care is planned.

If your GP or specialist decides you need a test, operation or other hospital treatment, he or she will ask the hospital to admit you as an inpatient. Inpatients stay in hospital overnight or for a few days for medical, surgical, paediatric, obstetric and rehabilitation services.

Elective surgery

Elective surgery is non-emergency surgery which is medically necessary, but which can be delayed for at least 24 hours.

Find out more about elective surgery.

Outpatient care

Outpatients receive medical treatment without staying in hospital. Outpatient services can include emergency services, day procedures and therapy services. Even though you are not being admitted to a hospital, you will still need a referral from your GP to receive outpatient care.

When you are referred to an outpatient clinic, the medical advice provided by your GP will determine how urgently you need care. Patients with the most urgent needs will receive medical care first.

To change or cancel an outpatient appointment call Outpatient Direct on 1300 855 275.

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