Overview of the WA health system
Western Australia’s health system is a mix of services provided by the Australian and State Governments and private healthcare providers.
A GP, also known as a general practitioner or doctor, is often the first health professional you talk to about your physical and mental health. GPs work in private clinics or practices. They care for patients of all ages on health issues including illness, injury, mental health and healthy lifestyle tips.
Find out more about GPs.
After hours GP services
Some GPs see patients outside of normal working hours, such as evenings and weekends.
Find out more about GP after hours services.
A specialist is a doctor who has done further training in a certain type of medicine or surgery. Your GP will refer you to the care of a specialist if necessary.
Find out more about specialists.
A wide range of health services are available in Western Australia. Some are provided by the government and some by private and not-for-profit organisations. These services include:
Talk to your GP about how to access these services.
Nursing posts and nursing centres offer basic health care and treatment in country parts of Western Australia. Qualified nurses work at these centres and doctors visit on a regular basis.
In Western Australia there are three kinds of hospitals:
- public hospitals managed by the WA Health
- private hospitals managed by private organisations
- public hospitals run in partnership with private organisations.
You can be admitted as either a public or private patient to a public hospital.
Public hospitals are owned by the State Government. In Western Australia, public hospitals are managed by WA Health.
Find Western Australian public hospitals by using the National Health Services Directory.
A private hospital is owned and managed by a private company or organisation.
Find Western Australian private hospitals by using the National Health Services Directory.
Public and private partnerships
Some private hospitals work in partnership with WA Health to provide free public health care. By working together, WA Health and its partners make the best use of funds and resources to improve the health of the entire WA community.
Partnerships can work in different ways. Sometimes a free public hospital is located in the same place as a private hospital for patients with health insurance or who pay their own medical costs. As part of the partnership, the private hospital may provide clinical services to the public patients.
In other public hospitals, a private organisation may provide non-clinical services such as cleaning, transport and supplies.
The important thing to remember is that public patients at these hospitals are treated in the same way as at any other public hospital in Western Australia.
Public and private patients
All Western Australian residents have the right to receive quality public hospital services, either for free as a public patient or as a private patient with extra costs.
Before being admitted to a public hospital in Western Australia, you will be asked to choose if you wish to be treated as a public patient or a private patient.
What is a public patient?
If you are eligible for Medicare (external site) and a public patient in a Western Australian public hospital, you will not pay for accommodation, surgery, medication and other in-hospital services. The hospital chooses the doctors or specialists who treat you and you may not have a choice about when you go to hospital.
What is a private patient?
You can choose to be a private patient in a public or private hospital.
If you choose private treatment in a public hospital
If you choose to be treated as a private patient in a public hospital some costs will apply. The cost of most medical services provided to private patients is covered under Medicare. You or your health insurer must pay any difference in costs. As a private patient, a doctor of your choice will treat you where possible.
Even if you have private health insurance, you can still choose to be treated as a public patient at a public hospital.
Private patient in a private hospital
If you are a private patient in a private hospital you can choose your doctor and hospital and when you will be treated. You or your health insurer must pay for all the costs of your care including accommodation, medical services, and the services provided by your doctor and other specialists such as anaesthetists.
If you do not have private insurance you may still ask to be treated as a private patient at a public or private hospital. Remember that without private health insurance the costs can be very high.
More information about health insurance
Visit the Department of Health and Ageing (external site) for more information about private health insurance.
Inpatients and outpatients – different types of hospital care
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.
Outpatients receive medical treatment without being admitted to 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 urgent your need for care is. Although we try to provide you with an appointment as quickly as possible, patients with the most urgent needs will receive medical care first.
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.