Healthcare in Canada
Understanding the fundamentals
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Medicare in Canada
Hospitals and clinics in Canada
Most hospitals and clinics in Canada are government-funded and regulated, although there are some private clinics that offer specialised treatments. Major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have well-equipped teaching hospitals linked to universities. However, finding an emergency department in rural parts of Canada may require a long drive. General family clinics can handle minor emergencies and are easily found throughout the country.
While the standard of care at public facilities in Canada is good, waiting times can be a problem and delays are common, even at an emergency department. To see a specialist, patients generally need a referral from a GP.
Medicare cards in Canada
Expats can access Medicare once they have been granted permanent residency in Canada. Because each province has its own insurance plan, the rules vary depending on where a person is based. Generally, there is a waiting period before a health insurance card can be issued. During this period, expats should ensure they have private health insurance in place.
Health insurance cards signify an individual’s right to access Medicare, and each family member needs to carry their own. As the process of obtaining a health insurance card can be quite bureaucratic and time-consuming, many expats opt to take out private insurance.
International health insurance in Canada
Many locals use private health insurance to supplement their Medicare entitlement. Expats without permanent residency are advised to invest in a comprehensive policy, since they aren’t eligible for Medicare. Most employers offer some kind of private insurance policy, whether to cover those unable to access Medicare, or to top up Medicare coverage.
International and local healthcare insurers are available. Depending on the length of stay in Canada and future plans, it may be better to opt for an international health insurance policy. Expats should check which hospitals in the local area are accessible before investing in any health insurance plan.
Pharmacies and medication in Canada
Emergency Medical Services in Canada
The emergency number in Canada is 911 for the police, ambulance and fire department services.
Each province or territory in Canada is responsible for the emergency medical services under its jurisdiction. In larger cities, response times are much faster than in more rural areas. Ambulances are well equipped in line with local regulations, and paramedics and EMTs are highly trained. Private ambulances are also available for non-emergency transport to hospitals.