The healthcare system in New Zealand

The New Zealand Healthcare System

Sarah Peddie

New Zealand has a sound reputation for healthcare which is available free of charge or via subsidy to all eligible residents of the country via a public healthcare system organised into 20 district health boards, 15 in the North Island and 5 in the South Island. The health boards provide primary, secondary and tertiary medical care, dental care and public health.

There is also a smaller private healthcare sector with hospitals and clinics throughout the country providing primary and secondary care to insured or cash paying patients.

Heathcare is free of charge in the public hospitals for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents but if you are living in the country on a visa, you will need to obtain private healthcare insurance. Urgent treatment at emergency departments is free of charge to all.

Public healthcare

Free medical care includes general medical tests, children’s immunisation and prescription medication for children under six years-old. 

Subsidised medical care includes General Practitioner (GP) visits, purchase of prescription medication and ambulance services. 

One of the biggest downsides to public healthcare is the waiting times for non-emergency care and these waiting times can vary between hospitals. 

Private healthcare 

Many residents in New Zealand opt for private health insurance to jump the queue for non-emergency procedures. However, private healthcare users can still use the public system. 

There is a wide range of clinics and private hospitals throughout the country and they provide services such as general surgery, recuperative care and specialist procedures. Private testing laboratories and radiology clinics are also available under private insurance. 

Health insurance

Compared to other countries, New Zealand doesn’t have overly expensive health insurance costs. If you are heading over there to work - some workplaces offer medical cover within your work package.

Both private and public hospitals accept health insurance. If you are an expat then you can choose between international health cover or local health insurance providers. 

Hospitals and pharmacies 

Hospitals in New Zealand are usually well equipped with the latest medical devices and have highly skilled and qualified medical professionals working in them. 

For emergencies, you can visit an Emergency Department in a public hospital or an Accident and Medical Clinics - which will treat emergencies and urgent care cases that includes car crashes, bone fractures and other accidents.

The New Zealand government set up a specialist agency called PHARMAC which aims to subsidise medication and have low drug prices. Around 2,000 drugs that are sold in the country have been subsidised whether it be partially or fully. 

There are plenty of pharmacies throughout the country, especially in urban areas which include large franchises as well as independent ones and also online services. 24-hour pharmacies are rare. 

Search for medical jobs in New Zealand

Are you a medical professional and thinking about heading to New Zealand in 2021? Then, register with Odyssey Recruitment and we will be in touch to advise you of suitable roles.

If you are interested in reading more about New Zealand, read our New Zealand Country Profile and keep up to date with news in our blog.

New Zealand Healthcare Video