General Health and Vaccinations
Tap water is safe to drink, although drinking water direct from streams and lakes does carry a risk from Giardia, a water-borne bacterial parasite that can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Boiling the water will minimise the risk.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and skin protection, hats and limiting exposure to the sun is recommended.
New Zealand covers the bulk of the cost of medical treatment but expects most patients to make a contribution. The ‘free’ or subsidised healthcare is available to its citizens, permanent residents and visitors from countries with a reciprocal agreement with New Zealand (including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands and the UK). Those who do not fall under one of these categories, including those working in New Zealand for less than two years are not eligible for publicly funded healthcare.
The state healthcare system does not get subsidised by social security contributions but from general taxation and payments from users. The principle that underlies the system is that hospital in-patient treatment is provided free, but outpatient and family doctor consultations and prescriptions are subsidised but a contribution is required from patients. A Community Services Card is provided to those on low incomes and this entitles the holder to discounts.
Dentistry and optical services are not generally covered under the state health scheme. However, children under 18 get free basic dental care.
Apart from accidents and emergencies the first point of contact in the New Zealand health system is the GP. The Healthpoint website allows you to search for GPs and other health services by region in both the public and private sectors. In common with most countries New Zealand has growing waiting lists for hospital treatment, but once you have got a place in hospital the treatment is good and provided you qualify there are no charges.
New Zealand has a unique system for accidents. The Accident Compensation Corporation (www.acc.co.nz) covers the costs of medical treatment required as a result of an accident whatever the cause. The system is no-fault which means that you do not need to prove who was at fault but also that you cannot sue the party who caused the accident. The ACC is funded by levies in the cost of petrol and motor vehicle licence fees, levies on employers, specific levies within income tax as well as through general taxation. Medical expenses are covered in full and claimants receive a weekly allowance. Lump sum compensation can be paid after two years or once the long term position has been established.
The private health system in New Zealand operates alongside the public health service as well as independently of it and treatment may well come from the same surgeon or specialist as in the public system. Private healthcare does enable patients to get around the waiting lists in the public health system for non-emergency appointments and treatment.