A family doctor is a general practitioner who is responsible for the primary care of an individual and family. A referral from a family doctor or clinic is required before a specialist can be consulted. It is recommended that foreign representatives seek a family doctor once they arrive in Canada. This can be a challenge, however, since there is a general shortage of doctors.
Ask friends and colleagues for references to doctors who are taking on new patients or for help finding a doctor who speaks a certain language. Information about finding a family doctor in Ontario is available at www.cpso.on.ca. For Alberta, this information is available at www.cpsa.ab.ca and for British Columbia it is available at www.cpsbc.ca.
Those who need to see a family doctor, but do not have one, can go to a walk-in clinic without an appointment. If possible, the same clinic should be used. This helps ensure that the medical team has access to previously gathered patient information—and is in a better position to offer help. Calling in advance is advisable.
The cost of a visit to a family doctor will vary depending on the purpose of the visit. For a consultation, the cost ranges from $60.00 to $250.00. If medical tests are required, the price will rise with their number and complexity. If a patient has a health plan, these costs should be covered by the health insurance provider. Most doctors will address only one issue per visit and a visit may have a time limit of 15 minutes.
When a family doctor refers a patient to a specialist, the patient can expect to wait three to nine months for an appointment. Visiting a specialist whose clinic is situated in a hospital may require the patient to pay hospital fees, fees to meet with the specialist and any medication fees. These fees can total between $300.00 and $500.00 or more, depending on the specialist visited.
Private clinics allow patients to consult a specialist without a referral. Patients should contact their health coverage provider to ensure that the services they request are be covered by their health plan. Details about private clinics and their locations can be found at www.findprivateclinics.ca.