Canada Health Care

How good is health care in Canada, how to get Ontario health card, find a doctor and more tips

Most immigrants in Ontario know that Canada health care is free. That said, there are still many questions that worry them - from how to get an Ontario health card to be eligible for free health care to how to find a doctor. In the form of FAQ I will try to answer these questions.

If you have more questions, please feel free to submit them via Contact me page. Please note that I have nothing to do with Canada health care - I am only an immigrant and a user of the health care in Toronto. Here I only present the information that I gathered through personal experience and through various official sources about health care in Canada.

How to arrange for Canada health care? How to get Ontario health card?

As soon as you arrived, you need to apply for an Ontario health card. You need to wait 3 months before you are entitled to get the free health care. Several groups are exempt from the 3 months waiting period.

For this period of time, I recommend that you purchase a private health insurance plan. You can easily compare Canadian health insurance quotes online.

After 3 months in Canada, you may start looking for a family doctor or a pediatrician, if you have children. You will need to show your OHIP card (Ontario Health Insurance Plan is your Ontario health card) every time you visit a doctor. They will not accept you if you leave it at home.

Is Canada health care free for immigrants?

Yes it is free for all citizens and permanent residents. Once you immigrated to Canada, you become a permanent resident. Once you receive your Ontario health card, you become eligible for free health care. The waiting period of 3 months applies - you do not get free health care during your first 3 months in Canada.

I recommend that you get a private health insurance for this waiting period. You can find Canadian health insurance quotes online.

Is Canada health care free for unemployed people?

Yes it is free for every citizen and permanent resident.

Is Canada health care free for visitors/tourists?

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No, it is not. If something happens to you, they WILL provide health care to you, but they will send you a bill, that may be very high. Therefore it is highly recommended that visitors to Canada buy their own private health insurance.

How can Canada afford free health care?

Canada health care is financed through taxes of employed people and business owners. therefore it's not entirely "free".

Is there private Canada health care?

Yes there is. There are many health care centers in Canada that provide both free health care and private paid health care. Some examples are dental surgery or hernia surgery. If you have a life threatening situation, they will provide you surgery and treatment for free. If you only want a cosmetic hernia repair or cosmetic dental work, you will have to pay.

Be careful, however, with the plastic surgery. In Canada, the plastic surgery is not a regulated profession and is not covered by Canada health care. Practically anyone can call him or herself a plastic surgeon. Be sure to ask to see their credentials and speak to former patients.

How to find a family doctor in Ontario?

There are a few ways to find a doctor in Ontario. For starters, you can register with Health Care Connect. You will answer a few health related questions about your family, they will evaluate your health care needs based on your answers. You can, however, look for a doctor yourself. You could inquire in walk-in clinics whether there are doctors who accept new patients, or ask your friends to recommend a doctor.

It is not crucial, however, to have a family doctor in Canada - many people simply go to a walk in clinic and get there their free Canada health care without worrying about finding a permanent doctor. In walk-in clinics and emergency rooms, doctors on duty accept patients on a first-come first served basis, but patients who need immediate care may be accepted first. Be sure to always have your Ontario health card if you go to a walk in clinic.

Canada health care - How long should I wait to see a doctor?

Toronto life - A picture of Toronto General hospital

There are many choices. Be sure, however, to always have your Ontario health card ready and show it to the receptionists or doctors. If you have a family doctor, you need to make an appointment if your condition is not urgent.

The waiting period may be anywhere from 1 day to 3 weeks in Toronto. To see a specialist, you first need to see a family doctor who will send you to a specialist. The waiting period to see a specialist in Toronto is much longer.

If you are pregnant, you do not need to wait long to see a gynecologist. They usually will accept you on the 10th-12th week of your pregnancy. Usually they won't see you before that if you feel good.

If you are sick and can't wait long to see your family doctor, you can go to a walk-in clinic or to an emergency room in any hospital. You will get accepted the same day, but you will have to wait anywhere from 1 to 6 hours!

Toronto life - A picture of North York General hospital in Toronto

In my experience, walk-in clinics in Toronto work much faster than so-called emergency rooms. There is really little point to go there.

However, if you have kids in Toronto, and they get very sick and your family doctor or a pediatrician cannot accept your child today, I highly recommend going to the Sick Kids hospital - they are much better in treating children than regular clinics. The line there is, however, huge! Therefore first do try to see your doctor.

Patients are accepted usually on a first come first served basis. However, patients with serious health conditions are accepted first.

I am not sure their judgment is fair though. For example, once we came to a hospital with my 1 year old son who had a serious ear infection - he had a fever and a stuff was coming out of his ear, and he was screaming with pain.

And there was a 5 year old boy with a mild rash around his chin and otherwise looking healthy. This boy was accepted at least 2 hours before us! I overheard that the doctor told the parents that it was just a food allergy and that they shouldn't give him certain foods!

Canada health care - Tips for Ontarians

Toronto life - A picture of a medical centre in Toronto

In Ontario, if you have a few health concerns or questions, you can call Telehealth Ontario. A registered nurse will answer your questions and give you medical advice. Their number is 1-866-797-0000, TTY : 1-866-797-0007. If you are very sick, however, you should call 911.

If a member of your family doesn't speak English, tell him or her to call Telehealth Ontario (for medical questions) and 911 (if really sick) and clearly pronounce their language in English and stay on the line. They will try to find an interpreter immediately.

If you live in Toronto or the GTA - you can arrange for a doctor's visit to your home. Their phone number is 416-631-3000. The visit is completely free of charge, but you will need to be home all day because they do not know for sure when they will be able to visit you. Please make sure to have your Ontario health card with you.

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