New Zealand is a developed country with good quality medical services. However, because New Zealand has a small population (approximately 5 million people), some of the more specialised diabetes services (such as pump training residential courses or hypoglycaemia awareness training courses) are not as widespread as they are in other countries. You may have to travel to access some of these sorts of services.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health (the government agency that controls nationwide health services) currently has a big focus on diabetes prevention and active diabetes management, especially of Type 2 diabetes. This has meant that over the last few years diabetes services have received increased funding. How diabetes services are structured varies somewhat from region to region in New Zealand, but they are mostly similar.
In New Zealand, health care services are often divided into ‘primary care’ and ‘secondary care’.
Primary care is the usual first point of care that most people access. This is commonly your GP (general practitioner) or ‘family doctor’. You have to pay for this service, although those on a low income often qualify for a reduced rate. All children under the age of 6 can visit a GP free of charge in New Zealand.
The standard cost to visit a GP is around NZ$45-55, depending on the doctor. There is no additional charge for a visit to a GP for people from other countries.
Secondary care is usually defined as specialist care that you may be referred to after your visit to the GP. These services are usually run out of the larger hospitals and include, for example, specialist diabetes services, specialist eye services, specialist kidney services and hospital services. If you are experiencing any problems with your diabetes – and in some areas if you take insulin for your diabetes – you can ask for a referral to the specialist diabetes services. The specialist services are free of charge, however some diabetes physicians also run private practices.
Diabetes nurse educators are available throughout New Zealand and their service is usually free of charge. Dietitians are available, often free of charge, but in some areas you may have to pay for this service.
The New Zealand government currently has a policy of putting more funding into primary care. This will mean that there will be a move towards many of the diabetes care services being located within primary care. This should mean that you will receive your diabetes care from your GP or close by.
To get medications or test strips in New Zealand, you need to have a New Zealand doctor’s prescription for the items. If you are just visiting New Zealand it is often easiest, if possible, to bring enough medications and test strips to last through your visit.
New Zealand has a government agency called Pharmac that governs what types of diabetes medications are available in New Zealand. This means that some medication that is available overseas isn’t available in New Zealand. However, there is usually a closely equivalent medication available.
Insulin, and nearly all diabetes tablets, are available in New Zealand. Both of the large insulin companies, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, have a wide range of their insulins available in New Zealand. The very short-acting insulin analogues Eli Lilly Humalog and Novo Nordisk NovoRapid are widely available.
Medication costs the same amount throughout New Zealand. If you are a resident in New Zealand you will pay $5.00 for each prescription item. The charge for a non-resident (unless for an emergency supply and coming from a reciprocal country like Australia and the UK) will be NSS, or Not Subsidised and the full cost of the medicine will apply.
Treatment for any complications or problems with your diabetes is available free-of-charge (for New Zealand citizens and residents) through departments located within the public hospitals (eye departments, renal departments etc). The treatment options available are comparable with any of the developed countries outside of New Zealand.
If you are thinking of emigrating to New Zealand you will have to supply medical details of your state of health. Your details will be assessed by a consultant physician based in New Zealand before you are considered for residency. If you are requiring very extensive and costly medical treatment (such as dialysis) at the time of emigration, it will be more difficult for you to get residency in New Zealand.
If you are not a New Zealand resident and you require hospital treatment while you are in this country, you will have to pay for it. The average cost per day for being in a New Zealand hospital is about NZ$500. This is for basic care. If you require any treatments or interventions over and above standard care and basic tests, they will be charged on top of this basic charge. Check out travel/medical insurance before you come. This way, in the unlikely event of you needing to go into hospital, these costs will be met.