Buvette Masthead

What to do if you or a family member is sick in Canberra

Christine Spicer

Help if you or a family member is sick in Canberra – including the kids, no matter what time it is.

24/7 HELP

As tempting as it is to ask the internet for advice when you or your children are sick the safest option is to get medical advice from a qualified professional. Just because someone in your Facebook group has the same symptoms you describe, it doesn’t mean that the same treatment will be suitable or safe for you or your kids.

Healthdirect is a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information. If you or a family member is feeling ill and you are unsure what to do call their 24-hour telephone advice line to talk to a Registered Nurse. It’s vital we receive credible and reliable health information, and this is the place to get it. If English is not your preferred language, Healthdirect can arrange for an interpreter.

The National Home Doctor Service is available if you or a family member needs to see a doctor urgently (and it’s not life-threatening) but your GP is closed. If you have a Medicare card, this service is free. The doctors are on the road from 6pm weekdays, 12 noon on Saturdays and all day Sundays and public holidays. Once the booking is confirmed, you receive a text with the doctor’s estimated arrival time. On average they see most of their patients between two to three hours – however, this can vary.

Poisons Information Line is available to answer any question you have about poisons, ranging from medication, eucalyptus and other essential oils, batteries, insect and weed killers, dishwasher detergents, laundry products, cleaning products to iron and potassium tablets. If your kids are anything like mine, they can be a little too curious and put things in their mouth that they shouldn’t. Poisoning is one of the most common childhood injuries and most accidental poisonings happen to children younger than five years old, with children aged one to three years most at risk. I’ve had to swallow my pride more than once to give the Poisons Info-line a call!

If you or someone else experiences severe breathing difficulties, loss of blood or suspected broken bones, call 000 for an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital Emergency Department. Similarly, for head injuries – with a loss of consciousness, severe chest pains or severe allergic reactions, call an ambulance or go to your Emergency Department.

General health care for you and your family

General Practitioner/GP/family doctor. One of the best ways to care for you and your family’s health is to have a good relationship with your GP. If you have a chronic condition (generally an illness that lasts for more than six months) you’ll be seeing your GP regularly and it’s important that you feel cared for. Ask your friends, family or pharmacist for advice on a GP if you are looking for a new one. If you need a GP who bulk bills, search for ‘Canberra bulk billing GP’ in your search engine and you’ll be able to view those who do.

Pharmacists/chemists/white coats are often a forgotten wealth of information, their expert advice is free and, usually you don’t need to make an appointment. If you have a cough, cold, sprain or a rash then your local pharmacist is qualified to give you expert advice. Most pharmacies also offer a prescription reminder service to help you avoid running out of medication.

Walk-In Centres are lead by specialised nurses who offer free one-off advice and treatment for minor illness or injury. No appointment is needed, however children under two and people with complex or serious conditions should see their GP. They are located in Tuggeranong and Belconnen, please don’t make the mistake I did of thinking they were still located at the Canberra Hospital!

The Walk-In Centres are open 7.30am to 10pm every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

  • Belconnen Walk-in Centre, Belconnen Community Health Centre, corner Lathlain and Cohen Streets, Belconnen
  • Tuggeranong Walk-in Centre, Tuggeranong Community Health Centre, corner Anketell and Pitman Streets, Tuggeranong


Generally, it’s much easier for us to talk about our physical health than our mental health but both are important. 45% of us will experience a mental health condition in our lifeline and in any one year three million of us are living with anxiety or depression. For information to recognise how depression and anxiety can affect people evidence-based and helpful information is available on the beyondblue website.

In Canberra, if you, your partner, friend or family member is struggling with the adjustment to parenting it’s important they know they are not alone. This video explains what PANDSI does; you can view the PANDSI website or get information and advice about perinatal depression and anxiety on 6288 1936. You don’t need a referral or diagnoses to get in contact.

If you are in crisis right now, phone support is available 24 hours through Mental Health Crisis Line on 1800 629 354 or LIFELINE on 13 11 14


Christine Spicer

Christine Spicer is the President of PANDSI, mother of two and step-mum to more. Her volunteer role at PANDSI had led her to organising the PANDSI Cake-Off and working hard to reduce the stigma around perinatal depression and anxiety. She lives with her husband and kids in Weston Creek. More about the Author

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