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Health care in the Alice

We have a reasonable number of medical centres in Alice Springs. If you’re of Aboriginal descent, then your choices are even wider with the services of the excellent Congress medical centre available to you.

It is difficult to obtain a same day appointment with your own doctor, but you should be able to get in to see the “on call” doctor if you phone at 8am or 8.30am (depending on the clinic) as most clinics keep aside a few “extra” slots.

Mall Medical Centre is no longer located in the Mall. They’re now on Hartley Street, at the corner with Stott Terrace.

There’s also Alice Springs Family Medical Centre, Bath Street Clinic and Central Clinic.

I use Central Clinic & for continuity of care, I try to stick with my own GP but I have broken in a back up GP for use when she is away.

Alternatively, we still have the After Hours GP service which is run from within the Outpatients Department of the hospital. This is an excellent service and I hope it does not close (as predicted due lack of funds). It does cost more, but you do get some money back from Medicare. When I last used this emergency clinic it cost me $95 but it was worth it to avoid spending hours waiting in the Emergency Department.

Of course there is always the ED. I’ve not had to use the ED itself, all my little asthma problems & other slight emergencies have been able to be handled through the After Hours clinic (staffed by both community doctors as well as hospital doctors). The ED has an excellent reputation & I would have no hesitation using their services. Think of any time spent waiting there as educational. You will see some interesting sights, “culturally” speaking, but then, most public hospital EDs can be “entertaining”.

There is no private hospital in Alice Springs. But the public hospital is excellent, coming complete with an intensive care unit & a high dependency unit. Many of the rooms on the Medical Ward are single bed rooms which basically means they’re private rooms, with their own en-suite. Shared rooms generally only have 2 beds. Not bad for a public hospital.

What the surgeons can’t handle, they’ll stabilize and send you off to Adelaide with the Flying Doctor (no cost to you). We have general surgeons who can take care of most emergencies. We have numerous visiting specialists who see patients at regular outpatients’ clinics. For example, I see the gastroenterology specialists and that usually means seeing the top surgeon within the field. A friend sees the visiting cardiac specialist, but also regularly flies down to Adelaide for more specialized testing & treatment.

There’s now an oncology centre in Darwin and all cancer patients are meant to be treated there. But word has it that cancer patients are still being flown to Adelaide for their treatment (which is where most locals prefer to go because they’ve probably got family support in that city).

Whilst the public system can be slow with their waiting lists, if your case is urgent, you will be seen & attended to.

Pregnant? Birth & Beyond Parent Resource Centre (Childbirth Education Association) has information on your options here. According to the web site, we have the Midwifery Group Practice now operating here. Home birthing is an option here.

As in all things related to your health, your care is generally overseen and/or co-ordinated by your GP (with hospital input where necessary).

Dental care – Alice Springs has a couple of dental clinics with visiting specialists. My partner has used one of the local clinics and had no problems with them. For my first few years here I opted to fly “home” to Brisbane to see my own dentist. That’s not an option for me now (my mother having moved to Adelaide and relocated our “home”) so I will most likely be using the Alice Springs Dental Surgery on Larapinta Drive in the future. Or maybe I’ll fly down to Adelaide & see my sister’s dentist.

Pharmacies. We have 3 pharmacies in town. They all seem to be owned by the same group of pharmacists but under different brands: Priceline, Alice Springs Pharmacy & United.

For customer service (politeness, speed) I prefer to use Priceline Pharmacy in Alice Springs Plaza (the little shopping centre off Todd St Mall where Target is). When I’m working, it’s quicker & easier for me to drop my scripts off at the Alice Springs Pharmacy in the Yeperenye shopping centre. Occasionally I’ll use the United Pharmacy which is in the Coles Complex.

I also make use of the online Australian pharmacies. I use Pharmacy Direct & Pharmacy Online. I use these for non-prescription items. Sometimes it’s just easier.

St John’s runs the ambulance service. If you’re arriving here from Queensland, do remember to join up. Currently it’s $85 for a family.

A lot of people in Alice do opt to take out private hospital & extras insurance even though we only have a public hospital. If you can afford it, then do so because it will give you greater treatment options. My partner has insurance but I do not. As soon as I have enough money saved I am seriously considering taking it out for myself.

  1. May 3, 2010 at 3:37 am

    One thing I mis about Alice is the ease of getting Medicare refunds. I have to either mail away my receipts or drive to Adelaide to get reimbursed.

    • May 3, 2010 at 4:42 am

      Oh yes. The Alice Springs Medicare office has to be one of the enormous pluses to living here! (Seriously). The speed of the short queues is amazing. So different to the long waits in Adelaide or Brisbane where there are too few offices for the larger population.

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