Navigating the health system

Navigating the health system

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6 minutes

The health system can be confusing.  If you or someone you care for are sick or injured, it can be difficult to know which health service to use, when you can use it, and how much it will cost.

In the ACT, we have public health services and private health services:

  • Public health services are health services provided by the ACT Government. They include all services at the Canberra Hospital, North Canberra Hospital, Walk-in Centres, and Community Health Centres.
  • Private health services include private hospitals, General Practitioners (GPs), and specialist doctors.

Medicare provides free public health services, public hospitals and bulk-billing by some GPs. It can provide some funding for private specialists, but usually you will pay a fee or need to use private health insurance. Most medicines are subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The Healthdirect website has information about how the Australian healthcare system works, including Medicare and the PBS.

Know where to go for your health care on the Canberra Health Services website can help you make the right decision about which health service to use and find out how you can access the service.

Your Health Options

Key Health Services in the ACT

Below are the contact details for some of the main health services in the ACT.

You can use the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) to help you make a health service appointment or to help you talk to the doctor in the appointment. Phone 13 14 50 for a free interpreter. Read more about interpreters here.

If you use the National Relay Service, you can call the Voice Relay number on 1300 555 727 and ask them to help you contact the health service. For more options, including Auslan, visit the website.

  • In an emergency, always phone 000 for an ambulance.
  • If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, phone Access Mental Health on 1800 629 354.
  • You can call Lifeline for free counselling on 13 11 14 or visit Lifeline Australia for web and SMS chat.
  • If you think someone has taken an overdose, made an error with medicine or been poisoned, phone the Poisons Information Line on 13 11 26
  • Walk In Centres offer free help for minor illnesses and injuries. There are 5 locations in the ACT: Belconnen, Dickson, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, and Weston Creek. They are open 7.30am to 10pm every day, including public holidays.
  • Healthdirect gives you easy access to health advice, and information about general practice and after hours medical, pharmacy and dental services in your local area. Phone 1800 022 222.
  • Central Health Intake (CHI) is the main booking line for all community-based ACT Health services.
    • For services in the community, like clinics at Community Health Centres, phone 02 5124 9977
    • For services at the Canberra Hospital (sometimes called Outpatients Clinics), phone 02 5124 2415
    • You can also cancel an appointment online.
  • ACT Pathology collection centres are based in the hospitals and many community health centres. Phone 02 5124 2816 to be directed to the centre closest to you.
  • Looking for a General Practitioner (GP), specialist, or other health service? Try the Find A Health Service page on the Healthdirect website.
  • You can contact the Canberra Hospital main switchboard by phone on (02) 5124 0000.
  • You can contact the North Canberra Hospital by phone on (02) 6201 6111.

You can learn more about public health services on the Canberra Health Services website.

  • Access Mental Health is the central point of entry to access mental health services in the ACT. This includes the community mental health teams. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Phone 1800 629 354 or 02 6205 1065.
  • The Canberra Head to Health Centre is an adult mental health centre that provides free mental health support and referrals. You don’t need an appointment or a referral. Drop in from 8.30am-4:30pm weekdays (8:30am-7pm on Wednesdays) at Shop G7 (Ground Floor), 14 Childers Street, Canberra City. You can also call 1800 595 212.
  • Mind Map is a website for young people and their families to find mental health support in the ACT. You can also phone them from midday to 11pm every day on 1800 862 111.

Information about health services in your language

Canberra Health Services provides information about health services in Canberra in the following languages:

You can find translated health and wellbeing information in over 100 languages on the Health Translations website. You can search for resources by language, topic, organisation, keyword and file type. It is supported by the Victorian Government and managed by the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health.

For refugees and asylum seekers:

If you are an asylum seeker and do not have a Medicare card, you can still use health services in ACT public hospitals for free, and ACT public dental and community health services for free or at a reduced cost. You will need to get an ACT Services Access Card through Companion House. To apply phone 02 6251 4550 or email [email protected].

Companion House also provides doctor’s appointments and other medical care for refugees who are new to the ACT. They can help you find a GP in your local area.


Websites to help you find more services

  • The Carer Navigator shares information about how the ACT mental health system works and useful information to support people caring for someone with a mental health issue. It is run by Mental Health Carers Voice (part of Carers ACT)
  • Women’s Centre for Health Matters has created two websites:
    • Having A Baby In Canberra provides comprehensive, local information all in the one place about the options and support available, from planning for your pregnancy through to the first six weeks at home with a baby.
    • ACTeenChoices provides local service information and education about sexual and reproductive health for young people in the ACT.
  • The Belconnen Child and Family Program and Service Directory has been created by A Village for Every Child. It has information about services and programs that operate in Belconnen or across the ACT to support children and families, with a focus on, but not limited to, pregnancy to 5 years. The programs and services included are largely free or low-cost.

Last Updated on 2 May, 2024.