Prevention & Recovery

How to get medical help when the doctor's office is closed

Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

How to get medical help when the doctor's office is closed

This story was originally titled "Accessing Health Care Around the Clock" in the April 2011 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Your doctor's office isn't your only health-care option. With a valid health card, you can seek help from a number of different health-care facilities across Canada.

Toll-free hotlines
Not sure where – or even if – you should seek immediate treatment? Most provinces have a 24-hour number you can call to ask a registered nurse any non-urgent health questions. They offer advice and can direct you to the appropriate help, including the location of the nearest emergency department, urgent care clinic, after-hours or walk-in clinic. Several of these hotlines have corresponding websites with symptom sorters, information on common health problems and alerts, and general health tips.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland and Labrador HealthLine, 888-709-2929, yourhealthline.ca

Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia HealthLink, 811, nshealthlink811.ca

New Brunswick: New Brunswick Tele-Care, 800-244-8353 Quebec: Info-Santé, 811

Ontario: Telehealth Ontario, 866-797-0000, health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/telehealth

Manitoba: Manitoba Health Links, 888-315-9257

Saskatchewan: HealthLine, 877-800-0002, health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online

Alberta: HEALTHLink Alberta, 866-408-5465, healthlinkalberta.ca

British Columbia:
HealthLinkBC, 811, healthlinkbc.ca

Yukon: Yukon HealthLine, 811

Emergency departments
Visit the emergency room of your nearest hospital if you experience any of the following symptoms.

• Discomfort or tightness in the chest

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• Abdominal pain

• Prolonged and persistent headache

• Any injury that may require stitches or involve a broken bone

What to bring: Health card, hospital card (if you've visited the same hospital in the past), additional insurance information and a list of allergies and current medications.

Note: Arriving by ambulance does not automatically mean you'll be seen sooner than other patients.


Page 1 of 2 Learn more about urgent care clinics, after-hours clinics and calling 911 on page 2.
Urgent care clinics
An alternative to the emergency department, these facilities are often found in community health centres and provide same-day treatment for illnesses and injuries that are urgent, but not life-threatening. Services vary, but they provide treatments that walk-in clinics don't, such as casts, eye care and stitches. Most urgent care clinics do not require an appointment.

After-hours and walk-in clinics

These clinics are for non-emergency care when you're unable to see your family doctor and normally operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Some clinics limit the number of questions you can ask per session, or only see people who are patients of the doctors on staff. Others close for holidays or close early when the maximum patient capacity is reached, so always call ahead to ensure you'll receive care.

Calling 911
This phone number connects you to ambulance, police and fire services for immediate emergency help. Not all communities have 911 service. Program local emergency and ambulance numbers into your phone if you live in one of these areas.

Note: Ambulance fees usually aren't covered under provincial and territorial health plans and can cost as much as $300. Some provinces, such as Ontario, cover most of the cost in emergency situations. Others, including Manitoba, only cover medically necessary transfers between facilities.

Editor's tips:
"Consider taking a taxi to the hospital, since the parking fees can be exorbitant and you never know how long you'll be." – Beverley Renahan, senior editor, Food

"Help the triage nurse help you by being clear about what hurts, where, how badly, and for how long it's hurt. Being prepared with this information can save precious seconds in the ER." – Colleen Fisher Tully, web food editor


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How to get medical help when the doctor's office is closed

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