Canadian Healthcare

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases and, unfortunately, accidents happen. If you are living, working or holidaying abroad it’s always best to be prepared and know where to go for your healthcare needs.

The healthcare options in Canada are, for the most part, similar to those available in most western nations and are governed by the Canada Health Act. The health system is public, and aims to offer everyone an equal service. However, whilst the health system receives financial support through the federal governments it is provincial governments who manage the delivery of health care services. Permanent residents of Canada receive free medically necessary treatments but the majority of medications have to be paid for. After arriving in Canada as a permanent resident there is a three month period which must elapse before eligibility for health care begins. It is recommended that you purchase private health insurance to cover you for that time.

On first arriving in Canada seek out and register with a local General Practitioner or Physician. In non-urgent cases they would be the first port of call and can issue referrals for specialised treatments and services if required.

In an emergency situation call 911. This number will connect you to someone able to issue an ambulance and offer advice. Every large Canadian city has at least one hospital, the majority of which have an emergency section. Admission for treatment is on a priority basis and subject to the availability of staff and space. In cases of limited facilities it is possible for a patient to be taken to another hospital for treatment. To have access to hospital services you must be in possession of a health card.

An application for a Canadian Health Card must be supported by the following documentation:

In the case of Permanent Residents / Landed Immigrants:

  • A Permanent Resident Card
  • Record of Landing (IMM 1000 Form)
  • Confirmation of permanent residence (IMM 5292 Form)
  • Canadian Immigration Identification Card

(You will need three of the above)

In the case of Non-Residents/Stateless Persons:

  • Your passport and landed immigrant papers / permanent resident card.
  • Temporary Resident Permit (restrictions apply)
  • Letter from Immigration and Refugee Board confirming Convention Refugee or Protected Person status
  • Protected Person status document
  • Written confirmation from Citizenship and Immigration Canada that you have applied for permanent residence in Canada and have passed the immigration medical exam
  • Work Permit (restrictions apply)

(You will need three of the above).

Different provinces of Canada may have different requirements/emergency contact numbers. Make sure you know your province!

Pharmacies are usually located in the centres of most major Canadian cities. Although regulated by the provincial pharmaceutical body they are often privately owned. In Canada the prices of prescription medications are regulated. Over-the-counter, non-prescription medications are available from both pharmacies and drugstores.

In Canada dental care is NOT covered by provincial health plans and can be very costly. Generally, medical insurance which will cover all, or a proportion of, your dental expenses should be purchased. In some cases employers may provide coverage. Educational institutions require foreigners to join group dental health plans. These usually cover part of the total expense.

In some Provinces, like Ontario, vision care is NOT covered by the public health plan. Private coverage, employment coverage or direct payment will be required for regular checkups and vision related treatments/requirements.