Ngā tari ohotata Emergency departments

Emergency departments (EDs) treat people who have a serious illness or injury that needs urgent care. Find out when to visit an ED in New Zealand, the cost, and what happens when you arrive. Major emergency departments are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Find a hospital near you

Find a hospital with an emergency department near you.

Public hospital services — Healthpoint (external link)

When to go to an emergency department

In any critical or life-threatening emergency call 111 for an ambulance. If you are near the hospital and the situation is serious but not life threatening, you may choose to get there without an ambulance.

This is for illnesses or injuries such as:

  • heavy bleeding
  • broken bones
  • bad burns
  • chest pain
  • issues breathing or staying conscious
  • mental health emergencies
  • severe allergic reactions
  • injuries after an accident like a car crash.

Anyone in Aotearoa New Zealand can go to the emergency department of a hospital for urgent care.  

Some people may be referred to an emergency department by their healthcare provider or the ambulance service.

For some people, there may be a cost of visiting an ED.

If you are not sure what to do

Arriving at the emergency department

When you arrive at an ED, a triage nurse or doctor will see you. They will assess your illness or injury, and decide how urgent it is and how soon you need treatment. This is called 'triage'.

You are treated in order of the seriousness of your condition. Life-threatening illness or injury will be treated immediately, and non-urgent injuries could be treated within a few hours.

  • Life-threatening — for example, a heart attack.
  • Emergency — for example, chest pain or severe shortness of breath.
  • Urgent — for example, bad injuries or severe abdominal pain.
  • Semi-urgent — for example, a fractured wrist.
  • Non-urgent — for example minor strains or sprains, which could be treated by your doctor.

This process allows for the sickest and most urgent patients to be seen first.

If your health issue is minor

If you have a minor injury or illness may have to wait for longer to be treated.

For non-urgent problems, it may be easier or faster to visit your doctor, after hours duty doctor or clinic, or phone Healthline for free advice: 0800 611 116.

Assessment and treatment

Your name will be called when it is time for your illness or injury to be assessed.

You will discuss your injury or illness with an ED staff member. Depending on your situation, you may need to take some medicines for your symptoms, or get tests like blood tests or an x-ray.

Once assessed and treated by ED staff, you may be:

  • admitted to the hospital to stay longer
  • transferred to another hospital
  • treated and discharged.

Cost of visiting an emergency department

In Aotearoa Zealand, the government sets out who is eligible for funded health and disability services. People who meet the criteria for free or partly-funded healthcare, include:

  • New Zealand citizens and permanent residents
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents who have lived or intend to live in Aotearoa New Zealand for 2 years or more
  • some students and visa holders
  • refugees and protected persons
  • tamariki (children) of eligible people.

Read the full list of who is eligible for funded healthcare.

Eligibility for publicly funded healthcare — Health New Zealand (external link)

When you are sent home

If you are okay to leave the hospital (discharged) check that you are happy with the following before you leave.

  • You know what is wrong with you.
  • You will be able to manage at home.
  • You have your prescription if needed and know where to go to pick up your medicine.
  • You know how to care for your illness or injury at home.
  • You have transport home.
  • You know what follow-up care you might need. For example, a follow-up specialist appointment or a visit to your GP or family doctor.
  • Your pain is under control.
  • You have a copy of your discharge summary form and, if appropriate an ACC form if you had an injury.

Find out about injuries covered by ACC.

Injuries we cover — ACC (external link)

If you get worse or do not get better

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