This has been my constant grudge over the years, Canadian healthcare is free and it's working better than US, but omg it is slow...
I once got very sick, vomited blood all day, ended up in Emergency after work, got there at 7pm, got admitted at 9pm, spent there whole night hooked to the IV with terrible pain in my abdomen and the doctor finally came to see me 12 hours later at 9am the next morning, just to tell me that I should not eat for 3 days and to go home and come back if I start vomiting blood again.
Since then I really, really try to avoid ER and Hospital any way I can.
On the other side they have separate boot for babies and small kids, so the average wait in ER in Kitchener for my kids was only 2 hours to be seen by a doctor, yes that is being lucky if you wait only for couple of hours...You can feel how badly health care is understaffed anywhere you go.
If you have previous appointment and you are coming during the day, you will rarely wait more than 1.5 hour.
As a newcomer your first option is a Walk in Clinic, you can go there even if you don't have yet Canadian health card and pay for your visit.
All provinces have their websites on how to find health care provider that you need, this is for ontario http://www.ontario.ca/locations/health/
Then you will need to find a doctor aka family doctor, this is what you can do
go to ratemd website, see the closest doctors to where you live and call as many as you need to see who is taking new patients, then for each member of your family you need to make first appointment and go there to fill out the forms...Stupid me thought that family doctor will take my whole family right? noooo, I went there only to find out that each and every member needs to make an appointment, then come and wait, then fill the papers and then go home...and sometimes the doctor will take one member, and other doctor will have to take another member and so on...really frustrating if you have small kids or babies.
The other option in Ontario is health connect, fill the online form here
and they will contact you as soon as they find a doctor near to where you are who is taking new patients.
If you just need medical advice, or are not sure what to do you can call for free telehealth
another useful link for Ontario
The other provinces should have similar websites to help you find a doctor you need.
What you should know as a newcomer
-Canadian vaccination for kids is different than some other countries, you and your kids need to take you records of health and vaccination to your new doctor, he should make a copy and return it to you.
You or your kids may need to be vaccinated, it is possible to refuse, however some vaccines are mandatory for school kids.
- Your doctor will see you for the first time in his life, it is VERY important that you tell him honestly your health history and all of your issues and complaints so he or she can help you.
-If you are not sure about something ASK, always ASK if you don't understand or don't know what something is, ASK if you want to know about side effects or consequences of a surgical procedure, ask about the risk involved too, ask if there is a different approach or treatment if you don't like the idea.
-If you need to see a specialist, the usual way is to be referred by your family doctor, but if you feel like you don't have time for that you can call and make the appointment yourself.
-In Canada family doctors take care of pregnant women up to a certain point in pregnancy, however you can ask to be referred to an OBgyn or find one yourself, you can also choose to have a midwife take care of you, I did this with my last pregnancy.
Women can also choose to have a baby at home with their midwife to help with the delivery.
-If a doctor orders a blood test, urine test, ultrasound or X-ray you will have to go to a specialized lab to do that, and sometimes these test have to be paid by you if they are not covered by provincial health insurance.
-Health care is free, but medications are not, if you do not have insurance that covers these expenses try to work with your doctor to find the best option for you, or just find additional insurance that covers dental work and medicines.
As long as my husband was working we have been covered for medical expenses with his company insurance, one day I got prescribed a special face cream (after I had surgery) that cost 100$ a tube, there is no way we could have ever pay for this without the
- Dentist is not covered by provincial health card, you have to pay them yourself and they will cost a lot, before you do any work ask for a fixed estimate and be sure you have dental plan or insurance to avoid bills that can ad up to thousands of dollars.
They can be very unprofessional when it comes to money, I once walked in with estimated 300$ cost for 2 tooth and when he finished my bill came to 640$ for 3 teeth! I had to pay, even though I didn't agree to that before he started to drill my teeth.
All in all I am happy that if I go to the hospital I won't have to sell all I have to pay for the bill, and that my kids will have a really good care, but I honestly try to avoid doctors and hospitals any way I can, we do not smoke,we eat healthy, we take vitamins,we walk a lot and take care of our health.