Accessing health services during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there are different options for accessing health services. This includes telehealth, to help protect patients and health workers and stop the spread of the virus. Some elective surgeries are also available. Find out how to get the health care you need.

What options are available for accessing services?

If you are struggling to breathe or seriously unwell, and it is an emergency call 000 immediately. Tell ambulance staff about recent travel and any potential contact with someone with COVID-19.

Whether for COVID-19 or another health reason, the way you access health care during the shutdown depends on your circumstances.

You might see your health care provider:

You should keep your regular health care appointments, including home care, and medical or pathology appointments for chronic conditions. You might be able to arrange a telehealth appointment for some things.

We are opening GP respiratory clinics around the country to assess people with fever, cough, a sore throat, or shortness of breath.

healthdirect Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker

Answer questions about your symptoms to see if you need to seek medical help or get tested. This tool is available online at any time.

In person at your health provider

For any general health issues and regular appointments, you can go to your health provider’s surgery, as usual.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, let your health provider know when making the appointment. Also tell them any recent travel or potential contact with someone with COVID-19.

When attending for treatment, follow the instructions your provider gives you. This could include wearing a mask (your provider can give you one), sanitising your hands when arriving and entering through a separate area.

Remember to practise physical distancing.

When receiving face-to-face care, your health care provider:

If you need to make an appointment on behalf of someone else, get information about their condition before calling. This will ensure you can provide important details to your provider.  

If you need medicines, you can still get them from pharmacies.

In person (home visits)

You should continue to receive your usual health care, including any care you receive at home, such as services under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme and Home Care Packages.

If you are unwell and think you might have COVID-19, let your provider know before your appointment.

When receiving face-to-face care at home, your care provider will:

Aged care workers with symptoms get tested for COVID-19. If they are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, they will not work.

If you want to start receiving services at home for the first time, check your eligibility. You can apply for yourself or on behalf of someone you care for.

For other services, you can either visit your health care provider or book a telehealth appointment.

If you are isolating, you can also get your medicine delivered to your home. 

Remotely (telehealth)

Any Australian with a Medicare card can now access telehealth services via phone or videoconference. This is a temporary measure until 31 December 2021.

This service helps protect both patients and health workers from unnecessary risk of infection. It is available from doctors, nurses, midwives, or allied and mental health professionals.

For GP services, you must have had a face-to-face consultation in the last 12-months with the same doctor, or another doctor at the same practice. This helps maintain continuity of care which is associated with better outcomes for patients. There are some exemptions to this requirement, and detailed information is available on the Medicare website You don’t need any special equipment for telehealth, and can either use your phone or a computer. You and your provider will decide the best system to use for your needs. 

To make a telehealth appointment, just call your health care provider. Your provider might also offer any of your existing appointments as a telehealth appointment.

If you need to make an appointment on behalf of someone else, get information about their condition before calling. This will ensure you can provide important details to your provider. 

The Medicare rebates for telehealth services are the same as those provided face-to-face in consulting rooms. Health care providers can choose to set their own fees or  bulk bill, by accepting the rebate as their payment for the service. GPs and other Medical Practitioners are eligible for incentive payments when bulk billing COVID-19 telehealth services to Commonwealth concession card holders. This also applies to children under 16 years of age.

It is expected that all providers obtain informed financial consent prior to charging fees. Make sure you check with your provider about their billing policy for COVID-19 telehealth services.

Read more about telehealth services in the consumer fact sheet at MBS online

During your telehealth consultation your doctor might need to give you a prescription. Read more about how you can get medicines, including delivery to your home.

Elective surgery

Some elective surgery is now available, including:

  • IVF
  • screening programs (cancer and other diseases)
  • post-cancer reconstruction (such as breast reconstruction)
  • procedures for children aged under 18 years
  • joint replacements, including knees, hips and shoulders
  • cataracts and eye procedures
  • endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures

Around 1 in 4 closed elective surgery lists are reopening as part of this first stage of a gradual restart.

Related information

Find out how to get medicines and look after your mental health during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Staying informed

To stay up to date on COVID-19:

You can also join our WhatsApp channel or use our COVID-19 app.

Australian Government WhatsApp channel for COVID-19

Join our COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia's response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you're already a WhatsApp user you can send a message to the channel to connect. If you don't have WhatsApp, download the app to join the channel.

Coronavirus Australia app

Stay up to date with official information and advice about the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. You can check your symptoms and get notified when urgent information and updates are published.

Resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for the general public

A collection of information sheets, links to apps and other resources for the general public and industry to help you stay informed and share important messages.

Contact

National coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccine helpline

If you need information about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines or help with the COVIDSafe app, call the telephone number listed below. If you need assistance with booking a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, please note the call centre is unable to book appointments on your behalf.

View contact

Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)

TIS National is for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

View contact

Last updated: 
29 April 2021

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.