Diplomat’s Guide To Health Care

Health Care Overview

Health care in Canada is regulated at a provincial level. As such, each province will have different rules with respect to health care. For simplicity, this guide will focus on health care in Ontario, and specifically in Ottawa.

Each Ontario resident is issued a provincial health card which allows them to access a publically funded health care system. Ontario residents can access most medical services without incurring a charge as the medical service providers are reimbursed directly by the government. Most diplomats are not eligible to receive a government health card, and are required to pay for services – usually at the time of their visit.

Primary Care

Family doctors are the primary access point to health care in Ontario. Family doctors typically have a scope of practice ranging from newborns to geriatrics. In addition, family doctors in Ontario routinely perform tasks that may be done by specialists in other countries. For example:

  • Routine gynecological examinations and pap smears are generally done by family doctors (not gynecologists)
  • Although some family doctors will deliver babies, most will monitor pregnancies for the first 16 weeks before handing over to an obstetrician who will follow the patient until the birth of the child. Family doctors would then become responsible for new born care, including required vaccinations

Specialist Care

Specialist care is generally only available through a referral from a family doctor or other physician. As such, individuals may not directly book an appointment with a specialist – they must first see their family doctor. Specialists include cardiologists, gastroenterologists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists, gynecologists and other specialties.

Blood Testing

Your doctor may order blood tests for you. These blood tests may be done within your doctor’s office at the time of your appointment. However; should your doctor’s office not provide this service, you may take your requisition for blood testing to a number of local laboratories. These laboratories often offer other diagnostic services such as electrocardiograms and X-Rays. ExecHealth offers onsite blood collection and diagnostic services to its clients.

Ottawa Laboratories With Multiple Locations

What To Do In A Medical Emergency

If you have a life-threatening medical emergency, immediately go to a hospital emergency room or call 9-1-1 on your telephone to dispatch an ambulance. The 911 operator can get an interpreter for you, if you need one.

Local Hospitals:

  • The Ottawa Hospital – General Campus
    501 Smyth Rd, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L6
    (613) 798-5555
  • The Ottawa Hospital – Civic Campus
    1053 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L6
    (613) 722-7000
  • The Queensway Carleton Hospital
    3045 Baseline Rd Ottawa, ON K2H 8P4
    (613) 721-2000
  • The Montfort Hospital
    713 Montreal Rd, Ottawa ON K1K 0T2
    (613) 746-4621
  • Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) – located next to the Ottawa Hospital
    General Campus
    401 Smyth Road, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1
    (613) 737-7600

Mental Health

Adjusting to a new country and environment can be difficult. Should you or a family member require support, the first step is to visit your family doctor or primary care provider. They will be able to determine the best way approach your situation.

A family doctor may offer counseling in their office, or may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further evaluation and treatment. Both psychiatrists and psychologists are trained in the assessment and treatment of mental health issues. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) with specialized training in mental health and is licensed to prescribe medications. Psychologists have doctorates level training (PhD) but are not licensed to prescribe medications. Due a shortage in psychiatrists, it may be very difficult to obtain an appointment with this specialty in Ottawa.

Mental Health Crisis Lines:

  • Mental Health Crisis Line: (613) 722-6914 or 1-866-996-0991
  • Youth Services Bureau 24/7 Crisis Line: (613) 260-2360 or 1-877-377-7775

In case of mental health emergency please go to the nearest hospital emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Dental Care

Most routine and preventive dental care is done by dentists. With over 8,000 dentists in the province, diplomats will have little difficulty finding a dentist that will accept them into their practice. Much like the medical system, primary care dentists may refer to specialists such as orthodontists or periodontist if an issue falls outside their scope of practice or requires special surgical intervention.

A list of trusted dentists and specialists is available by calling ExecHealth.

Vision Care

Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians may be involved in your eye care. There is sometimes confusion as to the role of these professions.

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye. Ophthalmologists are trained to provide the full spectrum of eye care, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to complex and delicate eye surgery. Ophthalmologists are medical specialists. As such, a referral from a family doctor is needed in order to arrange an appointment.

An optometrist is a doctor of optometry (OD ) – not to be confused with a medical doctor (MD) – who is licensed to provide primary eye care services including the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the eye and vision system and its related structures. An optometrist may also provide, fit and adjust eyeglasses, contact lenses. Optometrists can be seen without a referral from a family doctor.

An optician provides fits and adjusts eyeglasses and contact lenses on the prescription of an optometrist or ophthalmologist.