Registering with a family doctor is the single most important step in successfully navigating the Canadian health-care system. As gatekeepers to the full resources of the health-care system, family doctors are your first point of contact for most health issues and are an essential link to other medical services, including specialist referrals, diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds, X-rays and MRIs, and prescription medications.
A recent Ipsos-Reid report found that access to doctors is the primary personal health issue on the minds of Canadians. This is not surprising, as around five million Canadians do not have a family physician. Being accepted as a patient can be tough, but there are ways to make the search easier.
Begin by checking with the College of Physicians and Surgeons (the medical regulatory and licensing authority) in your province. Alternatively, some provinces and territories provide specialized "find a doctor" directories in which physicians may participate.
Here are your best bets:
Newfoundland and Labrador: College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador, 709-726-8546, cpsnl.ca
Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Department of Health, 877-731-1931, gov.ns.ca/health/physicians
New Brunswick: College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick, 1-800-667-4641, cpsnb.org/webdata/drdbase_form.shtml
Prince Edward Island: Health PEI Patient Registry Program, 800-321-5492, healthpei.ca
Quebec: Collège des Médecins du Québec, 888-633-3246, cmq.org
Ontario: Health Care Connect, 800-445-1822, ontario.ca/healthcareconnect
Manitoba: The Family Doctor Connection, 866-690-8260
Saskatchewan: Government of Saskatchewan, health.gov.sk.ca/find-a-doctor
Alberta: College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, 866-408-5465, cpsa.ab.ca
British Columbia: College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, 800-461-3008, cpsbc.ca
Nunavut: Government of Nunavut, 877-212-6438, gov.nu.ca
Northwest Territories: Northwest Territories Department of Health and Social Services, hlthss.gov.nt.ca
Yukon: Yukon Health and Social Services, 867-393-6980, hss.gov.yk.ca/findadoctor.php
Page 1 of 2 – On page 2 you'll find more helpful tips for finding a great family doctor in your neighbourhood.
Other strategies to consider:
• Call or visit your local community health centre, walk-in clinic or urgent care centre and ask about doctors accepting new patients, or see if you can join their waiting list.
• Ask your pharmacist if any new doctors have moved into the area.
• Check the websites of hospitals and community health centres.
• Ask your workplace human resources department for a referral.
• Ask friends or neighbours if they have a doctor they like, and see if they can recommend you as a patient. If you're in a position to choose between potential family doctors, consider the following to help decide which practice is right for you.
• Does the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province offer details on the doctor's length of experience, hospital privileges and specialties?
• Does the doctor practise in a group where you can access another doctor if yours is unavailable?
• Does the doctor offer appointments outside standard business hours?
Once you find a new doctor, remember to transfer your previous medical files to your new physician's office. Note that you may need to pay your previous physician a fee for this service.
"Bring a buddy to an appointment. A friend or spouse can take notes and provide backup if you're given detailed advice or directions, or need more appointments." – Brett Walther, senior editor, Health
"Sharing the same family doctor as your children may help the doctor identify hereditary risks and recommend screenings for inherited conditions they may not otherwise know are a concern." – Donna Paris, senior section editor, Life
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