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A mixture of reckless behavior and misadventure is leading an increasing number of Australians to require medical attention overseas, with the latest figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade showing an 8.5 per cent increase in Australians being hospitalized in 2011-12.
It has been reported that more Aussie tourists come to grief in Thailand than any other country, with 168 tourists taken to hospital in the Land of Smiles in the past year alone.
Consular figures show a total of 1372 Australians landed themselves in foreign hospitals in the 2012-13 financial year, with Indonesia, the US, China, Italy, the Philippines, the UK, India, Cambodia and Vietnam rounding out the top 10 countries for Aussies to run into trouble.
Injuries from motorbike accidents, brawls and dehydration were among the most common causes for hospital treatment.
The increase comes as DFAT launches a campaign to convince Australians to ensure they get adequate travel insurance and register with the department’s Smartraveller advice service before they head overseas.
It features Natalie Hensby, a 22-year-old Sydney woman, who was knocked unconscious and thrown into the water when the boat she was on collided at full speed with another vessel in the dark on the way to a Full Moon party in Koh Phangan in 2010.
She suffered a brain hemorrhage, swelling and bleeding on her brain, a punctured, collapsed lung, shattered pelvis and wrist, five broken ribs and fractured collarbones.
“I hate to think of the outcome of the accident without DFAT and Cover-More (her travel insurer),” she said.
“It was probably the difference between life and death.”
With Australians taking a record 8.8 million trips overseas in 2012-13, up from 8 million the year before, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said they needed to be as self-reliant as possible and seek consular help as a last resort.
However, too many Australian travelers continue to head off on holiday without taking out adequate insurance, often in the belief the government will help them if they get into trouble.
“Unfortunately there are still too many cases in which Australians without travel insurance become involved in accidents when overseas,” a DFAT spokesman said.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not pay for medical treatment for Australians in these cases.”
The price of not taking out travel insurance can be high. The cost of a hospital stay in South-East Asia can be more than $800 per day. Medical evacuations from Bali can cost more than $60,000.
The cost of being medically evacuated from the US can cost up to $300,000, according to DFAT.