Patient information when going to hospital

Aggression and abusive behaviour, drugs and weapons

Patients, carers, volunteers and staff all want health services to be delivered and received without personal threat or risk.

Violence or abusive behaviour is not tolerated at any SA Health site. Any incidents of aggression or violence should immediately be reported to a staff member for further action.

Public hospitals will take action to protect staff, patients and visitors against such behaviour. This may include removing persons from the hospital and reporting Bedside computers and patient incidents to SA Police.

Similarly, possessing, using, providing or dealing in prohibited substances or weapons is not tolerated at any SA Health site, including public hospitals, and will be dealt with under applicable laws.

Bedside computers and patient entertainment

SA Health has partnered with Telstra to install and support more than 3,500 bedside computers at the majority of public hospital bedsides in South Australia.

In addition to giving doctors, nurses, midwives and other members of your health care team access to your patient information at hospitals where the the Sunrise electronic medical records (EMR) system is used, bedside computers also provide entertainment services and packages for patients.

Entertainment packages can include digital television and radio channels, movies on demand and telephone packages. To watch an entertainment package, you will need a credit or debit card to pay for the service.

To learn whether there are bedside computers at the hospital you are attending, and for more information about available entertainment packages and associated fees, speak with staff at your hospital or visit the hospital’s page on our website.

For more information about Sunrise, visit the SA Health’s electronic medical record for patients, families page and the community on our website.

Confidentiality, privacy and access to personal information

Public hospitals collect, use and store confidential information about patients and their illnesses for administrative purposes and so they can be provided with appropriate care and treatment.

SA Health has adopted a Privacy Policy Directive (PDF 2.4MB) to ensure that all public hospitals and health units comply with a set of privacy principles. The principles regulate the way personal health information is collected, used, disclosed, stored and transferred.

Your information may be shared with members of your health care team, including your general practitioner, and service providers including pathologists, radiologists, allied health professionals and pharmacists.

If the Sunrise EMR & PAS has been rolled out at the hospital you are attending, your health care team will be able to access this information electronically from the computer at your bedside. To check whether the site you are attending has implemented the Sunrise system, please contact your hospital.

To identify ways we can improve the care we give, sometimes hospital staff, health or medical researchers, and committees review medical records.

You are assured that all staff are bound by strict confidentiality and no information to identify you or your treatment is kept for any purpose other than your health care.

You have the right to access information kept about you by SA Health, either personally or through another person you nominate. If you wish to access your personal health records, please ask to speak with a Freedom of Information Officer at the hospital.

More information about confidentiality is in the booklet Your Rights and Responsibilities, which is available in 16 languages.


‘Consent’ means agreeing to a proposed specific procedure after you have been given proper and sufficient explanation of the nature and likely consequences and risks of the procedure.

Public hospitals in South Australia follow legislative and SA Health guidelines relating to consent. Your consent must be given in writing before all operations, blood transfusions, radiotherapy treatment, examinations under anaesthetic and non-operative procedures of a serious nature. Written consent must also be given for the administration of local, spinal or general anaesthetic procedures.

If your capacity to make decisions is impaired and you have an Advance Care Directive (ACD), your substitute decision-maker will be able to provide consent on your behalf.

You may receive a consent form as part of your admission to hospital. Before you can make a decision and give your consent, it is important that you understand the procedure. A member of staff will explain it to you and, once you understand the procedure, please read all of the information on the consent form before you sign it. If there is any part of the procedure or the consent form you do not understand, please ask a member of staff for more information.

An external service provides interpreters for a range of languages, including sign language. If you need an interpreter to help you to understand what is being said so you can make an informed decision, please ask staff at your hospital to arrange an interpreter for you.

Information sheets about many surgeries and procedures are available for patients and provide explanations in plain language. They can be requested from members of staff.

Hospital accounts

When you arrive at hospital, you or your family will be asked to complete admission forms, including a patient information form. This form enables you to select whether to be treated as a public patient by a doctor allocated to you by the hospital or as a private patient by a doctor of your choice who either works at the hospital or who has visiting rights. In some cases, patients are given admission forms to complete before they arrive at hospital. If you have received your admission forms in advance, please make sure you bring them with you.

Public health care

As a public Medicare patient, you are entitled to treatment in the public health care system and you generally do not have to pay for your treatment or your stay in hospital.

Patients who remain in hospital for longer than 35 days and are medically stable may be liable to pay a fee. Please check with staff at your hospital whether charges will apply to your stay in hospital.

Private health care

Private patients can request to be treated by a particular doctor, provided that doctor has the clinical privilege to practice at the hospital. If you choose to be treated as a private patient, every effort is made by the hospital to organise for your nominated private health fund to be billed directly.

Please ask the staff to arrange a visit from the Patient Liaison Officer to discuss payment of your account while you are in hospital. Staff will provide you with further information, including any additional fees and charges.

If you do not have private health insurance, you can still be admitted as a private patient and you will pay a competitive rate for your stay in hospital and other expenses. The account will be sent to you once you are discharged from the hospital.

Compensation claims – worker’s compensation, third-party or common law claims

If your hospital admission is the result of a compensation claim, it is important that you tell the admitting staff which insurance company or solicitor is handling your case so that accounts can be processed accordingly.

Residents from other countries (non-Medicare patients)

Residents of countries that share a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia are usually eligible for free emergency treatment under Australia’s Medicare system. This arrangement does not entitle overseas patients to treatment as private patients or for elective admissions.

Residents of countries that do not have a reciprocal agreement with Australia are not eligible for free treatment. In these cases, patients will be responsible for paying all expenses associated with treatment, including medical, diagnostic, hospital stay, prosthetic, pharmaceutical and ambulance fees.

Holders of travel insurance may be able to lodge a claim for these costs through their travel insurance company.

Interpreter services

An external service provides interpreters for a range of languages, including sign language. If you need an interpreter to help you to understand what is being said so you can make an informed decision, please ask staff at your hospital to arrange an interpreter for you.

More information about interpreter services is in the booklet Your Rights and Responsibilities which is available in 16 languages.

Involvement in your care

You are an important member of your health care team, along with your nurses, doctors and allied health professionals. It is vital that you share information about your health with the other members of your health care team, especially if you notice any changes in your condition. Make sure you tell your health care team if you have any questions or concerns, so everyone can help decide on a shared plan that is best for your wellbeing.


While in hospital, all medicines that patients take are prescribed by hospital staff. For this reason, it is important that your health care team is fully informed of all medicines you are taking. Please bring all of your current medicines with you in their original packaging and, if you have one, your current medicines list. This will help your health care team understand exactly what you are taking, identify any problems and make sure there are adequate supplies so you do not miss any doses.

To help make sure your medicines are used safely, please:

  • Keep an up-to-date written list of all your medicines, including prescriptions, medicines you have bought at a pharmacy or supermarket, and any complementary or alternative medicines you are taking
  • Know your medicines – the drug name (including brand names) and what you are using them for
  • Share information with your doctor, pharmacist, nurse, midwife or other health care professional
  • Tell your health care team about any allergies or drug reactions you have had in the past
  • Read the labels on your medicines and follow all directions
  • Monitor the effects your medicines have on you and discuss any side effects with your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or midwife.

If you have any questions about your medicines, please ask your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or midwife. For more information about bringing your medicines to hospital, visit going to hospital section.

Organ and tissue donation

SA Health supports organ and tissue donation. In South Australia, organ and tissue programs are coordinated by Donate Life. For more information about Donate Life, visit our website at or speak with staff at your hospital.

Patient Transport Scheme (PATS)

The Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) provides some financial reimbursement to eligible country patients and approved escorts for the cost of travel and accommodation. PATS may be available if you need to travel more than 100 kilometres each way to receive specialist medical treatment that is not available at your nearest hospital or health service.

For more information about PATS and to discuss eligibility and how the scheme works, contact your local hospital or health service.

Patient rights and responsibilities

Information about your rights and responsibilities as a patient is outlined in the booklet, Your Rights and Responsibilities. Copies of the booklet are available at all public hospitals in South Australia.

Your Rights and Responsibilities gives you information about a range of issues, including deciding on the type of care or treatment you receive, accessing your personal health record, fees and financial assistance. It also outlines what you can do to help your health service give you better care and how you can provide feedback to your health service.

In addition, the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner (HCSCC) has developed a Charter of Health and Community Services Rights. The HCSCC Charter sets out the rights of all people who use health and community services in South Australia, including services in the public, private and non-government sectors. For more information about the HCSCC Charter, visit the going to hospital section.

Know your rights when receiving a health or community service in South Australia:

  1. Access – right to access health and community services
  2. Safety – right to be safe from abuse
  3. Quality – right to high quality services
  4. Respect – right to be treated with respect
  5. Information – right to be informed
  6. Participation – right to actively participate
  7. Privacy – right to privacy and confidentiality
  8. Comment – right to comment and/or complain

Statements of rights for mental health consumers

There are statements of rights for mental health consumers on Community Treatment Orders and Inpatient Treatment Orders. These statements provide information about mental health treatment orders, mental health care and summarises the rights and responsibilities of consumers of mental health services. Visit the going to hospital section for more information and copies of each statement in 16 different languages.

Patient experience and feedback

SA Health is committed to ensuring that the experience of consumers using its services is as positive as possible. We encourage consumers, families, carers and the community to provide us with feedback, and we want to hear about what we can do to make the health care service better. Complaints, compliments and suggestions help us to understand how to improve our health care services.

Consumers can express their concerns in person with staff at the hospital, by telephone, in writing, via the hospital website or with the Consumer or Patient Adviser.

A fact sheet on how to provide feedback can be accessed at the going to hospital section.

If you are not happy with the hospital’s response to your complaint, you can contact the Health and Community Services Complaints.

Commissioner (HCSCC) on telephone (08) 8226 8666 or 1800 232 007. For more information visit the HCSCC page.

Preventing and managing infections

Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways you and staff can prevent the spread of germs that can cause serious infections. To stop germs spreading, all staff responsible for your care should wash their hands before and after caring for you.

If you don’t see staff washing their hands before and after treating you, please speak up. You and your family should not be afraid or embarrassed to ask staff to wash their hands.

We also encourage you to help with reducing the spread of infection.

You, your family and friends should wash hands or use the alcohol skin disinfectants provided in every public hospital in South Australia:

  • Before and after touching people, objects or surfaces in the hospital room
  • Before eating
  • After using the toilet.

Please ensure you let your health care team know if you have any infections. More information about hand hygiene is available on the SA Health website.

Smoke-free policy

All SA Health sites are smoke-free and smoking is not permitted at any of the state’s public hospitals, including all buildings, grounds and car parks.

If you are a smoker, we can provide you with support to help you manage nicotine withdrawal while you are in hospital. It is a good idea to discuss your options for nicotine replacement therapy with your doctor and make sure your anaesthetist is aware that you are a smoker.

SA Health’s Smoke-Free Policy (PDF 5.1KB) protects staff, patients and visitors from second-hand smoke. Exposure to second-hand smoke can be harmful, particularly for vulnerable people such as children, pregnant women and people who suffer from pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

Quitting smoking before undergoing surgery can reduce your risk of post-operative complications and will also assist with wound healing after surgery.

For support to quit smoking, please speak with a member of staff, call the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit the Quitline website.