WA Health system

Health care options

Your symptoms won’t tell you where to go, but it’s good to know you have health care options.

If you or someone in your care is injured or unwell and you’re not sure if it’s an emergency always speak to a qualified health professional as soon as possible.

Many Western Australians visit emergency departments for non-emergency related issues however, emergency departments are not the best place to be treated or recuperate.


Self-care at home is the best option for minor illness or injury which may include:

  • minor cuts and grazes
  • muscle aches
  • hangover
  • coughs and colds.

Find out how to take care of yourself at home.


Your local pharmacy or chemist can offer advice on minor illness without the need to book an appointment. You can receive advice from a pharmacist if you have the following symptoms:

  • coughs and colds
  • sore throats
  • general aches / pains.

Pharmacies can also offer services such as dispensing prescription medicines and emergency contraception.

Find out how your local pharmacist or chemist can help.


If you are unsure what to do call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for free health advice from experienced registered nurses 24 hours, 7 days a week.

healthdirect also has other helpful services including:

For more information visit the healthdirect website (external site).


GPs, commonly known as a general practitioner or doctor, care for patients of all ages and advise on health issues including illness, injury, mental health and healthy lifestyle tips. GPs work in private clinics or practices. You may need to seek a GPs advice if you experience the following symptoms:

  • vomiting
  • persistent fever
  • chills
  • severe pain.

Your GP can also refer you to another doctor or health care professional for more specialised care if necessary.

Find out more about GPs.

After hours GP services

Some GPs see patients outside of normal working hours, such as evenings and weekends.

View the list of after hours GP services.

Hospital – general

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.

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 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.

Hospital – emergency department

Emergency departments provide 24 hour emergency services for people who have had a serious accident or suddenly become ill and require emergency medical care.

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

Call 000 for an ambulance.

View the list of metropolitan emergency departments and emergency phone services or see ED wait times.


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. Ambulance services or the Royal Flying Doctor Service can also help you access these services. Health services information can be found using the National Health Services Directory.

Royal Flying Doctor Service (WA)

Are there costs for ambulance travel?

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 emergency care and triage 5 being those with less critical needs. Patients are seen in order of triage category, 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.

Where to get help


Public Health

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.

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