Even with the best preparation, you may be struck by injury or illness overseas. This section outlines how we can help in such an emergency, and how you can help yourself.
Medical assistance in a foreign country can be extremely expensive, as the case studies show.
If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
See our health section for information on what to do before you travel, and make sure your insurance covers the activities you plan to undertake, as well as any pre-existing medical condition(s).
If you suffer illness or injury overseas, you should:
- contact your insurance company immediately
- let your family, friends or employer know
- if you need further assistance, contact the nearest New Zealand Embassy (see below)
- obtain a full medical report for your insurance company and, if appropriate, to enable you to make an Accident Compensation Commission claim on return (see below).
What can the New Zealand Embassy do?
- provide advice on local hospitals or other medical facilities
- help contact your family, and keep them updated on your situation
- help contact your insurance provider
- help your family or friends transfer money
- assist with the facilitation of medical evacuation (at your own cost, or that of your insurance provider).
If you do not have insurance, you are expected to pay any medical costs yourself. This includes any costs involved in returning to New Zealand, which could involve special flights and a medical escort. Some hospitals may be reluctant to provide treatment if payment is not guaranteed.
Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)
In some cases the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) may provide cover to New Zealanders, on their return to New Zealand, for treatment of injuries sustained while travelling on short trips overseas.
To qualify, the individual must be ordinarily resident in New Zealand.
ACC assistance is not available to cover any costs related to treatment overseas.
A full written medical report from the doctor, dentist or hospital detailing the incident and any treatment received overseas should be requested if an individual intends to put in a claim on return to New Zealand.
The ACC website provides information on eligibility and how to claim.
Adventure activities and extreme sports are becoming increasingly popular with many New Zealanders travelling overseas. These activities include white water rafting, bungee jumping, rock climbing, mountaineering, safaris and tours to remote places. Travellers need to be aware of the increased risks involved and the possible consequences.
There have been instances of death and serious injuries resulting from adventure and extreme sports activities. You should only use reputable guides and operators with proven safety records. You should also be very aware of insurance implications.
Many insurance companies specifically exclude these types of activities from travel insurance policies. Individuals are then personally responsible should an accident or mishap occur. See the Insurance Council of New Zealand website for more details.
Evacuation, hospitalisation and medical costs can be extremely high in many countries and you are expected to cover these costs yourself.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas, and this includes for the purpose of medical tourism. Many New Zealanders are tempted by the perceived prospect of cheaper and more immediate access to medical treatment overseas.
New Zealanders are strongly advised to discuss any plans they have to travel overseas for a medical a procedure with their local health practitioner well in advance of their trip, to ensure they are aware of potential risks and implications, particularly if things go wrong. Your travel insurer should also be informed of your intentions.
Before seeking medical, cosmetic or dental treatment overseas, we strongly encourage all New Zealanders to thoroughly research the standards and qualifications of their prospective health provider and consider the following factors:
- Communication – receiving treatment in a facility where you do not speak the language fluently may increase the risk of misunderstandings about your care.
- Complications – countries vary in their capacity for the type of intensive medical care that may be required if their are serious complications from a medical procedure. In some cases evacuation back to New Zealand for care may be required. This is very expensive and medical tourism is often not covered by travel insurance policies.
- Hygiene standards vary; diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV can be transmitted though unsterile medical equipment.
- Medication may be of poor quality or even counterfeit in some countries.
- Resistance to antibiotics is a global problem, and resistant bacteria may be more common in some countries than others.
- Blood products may not be screened for blood-borne infections.
- Flying after surgery may increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clot).
If you have an existing physical or mental health condition, we recommend you and your family carefully consider the extra stress and expense that may be caused by language difficulties or receiving medical care in a different cultural and economic environment. You are financially responsible for medical costs incurred overseas.