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Going to the Doctor: Accessing Health Care Services

Taking care of your health is very important. But it can be confusing to understand how to get health care help in Ontario.

First, there are some important words you should know to help you understand how the Ontario Health Care system works.

1. Family Doctor

This is the person or clinic who you go to for most of your daily health care needs. This might be a family doctor, a community health centre or a walk-in clinic. Sometimes a family doctor is called “primary care.”

2. Emergency Room (ER)

Emergency care is what you use when you have a health care emergency. You can go to an Emergency Room (ER) in a hospital. Most hospitals have an ER. You do not need an appointment to go to the ER. You might need to wait for many hours before you see a doctor.

3. Specialist

A specialist is a doctor that has extra training in a special type of health care. Some examples of specialists are a cardiologist (doctor for the heart) or a neurologist (doctor for the brain). If you need to see a specialist, you have to go to your primary care doctor first. They will send a “referral” to a special, which means that they will ask the specialist to book you an appointment.

Do I need to pay to go to the doctor?

It depends. If you are:

A Refugee Claimant

You DO NOT need to pay to go to the doctor. The Government of Canada will pay because you are part of something called the Interim Federal Health Program.

You have to show your refugee identify document every time you go to the doctor. This document will prove to the doctor that you are part of the Interim Federal Health Program.

Some doctors do not accept the Interim Federal Health Program! Always phone the doctor first to make sure.

A Protected Person

You DO NOT need to pay to go to the doctor. The Government of Ontario will pay through the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP).

You have to show your OHIP card every time you go to the doctor. If you don’t have an OHIP card yet, you can apply for one at a Service Ontario office.

See this website for information about how to apply for OHIP.

A Person without status

You MIGHT need to pay to go to the doctor. The Government of Canada and Government of Ontario will not pay for your health care. If you go to most doctor’s you will have to pay. But there are some places where you can get health care without paying. These can include:

Community Health Centres

Specialty clinics for uninsured people. Some examples of these include the FCJ Refugee Centre health clinic and the Access Alliance Multicultural Health Centre

Health 811 – this is 24/7 phone line to get advice on the phone from a nurse. Dial 8-1-1

How do I find a family doctor?

You can go to this website to find a family doctor in your area. This website will help you register for Health Care Connect, which will help you find a family doctor.

If you are a refugee claimant, you might have difficulty using the Health Care Connect website.

Contact the Centre for Refugee Children or another refugee centre near you for help finding a family doctor, including if you cannot use Health Care Connect