Medical guide in Toronto

Big topic today: the medical in Toronto! Let’s be honest, it is not our priority when we come here with our big suitcases between looking for apartment, job and friends .. we have so much more in our mind that our health is a fact. It’s a bit scary to say it straight but it’s a reality. In any case it was mine. For the reasons mentioned above, but also because we are discovering a country with a brand new health system, we are a little confused about the steps to follow, we often neglect this aspect of our immigration. After more than 5 years here I put together a little guide to help you because it is a question that very often comes up on Instagram !

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Health card (OHIP)

Something that few newcomers know: you have access to the health card even in WHV! Each province has its particularities, here we focus on Ontario. Your card covers your appointments with the doctor, gynecologists, your blood tests …

To be eligiable you have to be one of these options below:

  • Be a permenant resident
  • Have a permanent job or a 6 months contract minimum

How do you get your health card ?

  • You need to visit a Service Ontario office (be careful not all offices offer the “first card” service but only renewals) to apply. I advise you to make an appointment by calling them at 1-888-376-5197. The wait is 3 weeks to have an appointment but it saves you from waiting for hours without an appointment there.
  • The card is free, valid until the end of your work permit / permanent residence, you will receive it within 4 to 6 weeks by mail. You must update your mailing address on the website if you move.
  • You will have a 3 months deficiency when you first register and again with some visa changes.
  • Documents to provide:
    • permanent resident:
      • Permanent resident card or acceptation letter
      • proof of residence in Ontario (driver’s license is the case or a water bill / letter from the bank)
      • identity document (must be different from the permit if you have already used the permit as proof): the passport works here.
    • under work visa:
      • your work visa
      • an original letter of employment (not scanned, not printed, original!) stating that you have a job in Ontario full-time / 6-month contract minimum, the title of your position, start date / end.
      • proof of residence in Ontario (driver’s license is the case or a water bill / letter from the bank)
      • identity document (must be different from the permit if you have already used the permit as proof): the passport works here.

List of documents available here.

Benefits

If you have a permanent job, you most certainly have benefits. I had 3 permanent jobs before actually taking a minute to understand how it was working! All these papers and differences between back home and here worried me a little bit to be honest when in fact it’s amazing! This is the equivalent of our “mutuelle” in France. I recommend you ask questions to your human resources department, at least for me they have been super helpful to explain me how it worked. As with the “mutuelle” you have a percentage of coverage, for example 80% of your expenses are reimbursed, you have a budget for glasses, a dental budget, a budget “soft medicine” including osteopathy, massage, etc. Your benefits also supports certain medications. Simply present your card at the practitioner’s or pharmacy’s. It is often based on a calendar year not fiscal year. Remember to use them before the end of the year otherwise it’s lost!

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Family doctor

Once you have your health card in your hands, it will be time for you to find a family doctor. The government offers you the option to register on their website so that someone can find you a family doctor in your area who accepts new patients. It’s very easy. You will then receive a call a few weeks later with a doctor’s proposal. You do not have to accept. For example for me last year the doctor was in the office only 3 days a week, not going often to the doctor I accepted.

When you accept your interlocutor you will communicate the next steps: make an appointment with your doctor for a first appointment. Plan an hour for your first visit where the doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, your habits, make a complete check up if necessary. Do not hesitate to ask questions ! It’s brand new to you, they understand it and are here to answer your questions. My doctor does not speak French, for me it is not important but it is a personal feeling.

Your family doctor can also act as a gynecologist it’s normal here, so he can prescribe the birth control pill but also make your smear (called PAP here), which is done every 3 years versus annually in France, your blood test or STD for example.

Your family doctor refers you to specialists: if you want like me to have a gynecologist you can but you will need a referral from your family doctor. In my case I already had a name recommended by a friend, I gave it to her, she contacted him by sending a referral. Within a week I was able to call the gynecologist in question and make my appointment. If you need recommendations your doctor can help you.

Same concept if you want to see another specialist. Example: I wanted to have my moles checked, my doctor did, saw nothing alarming so did not recommend me to a dermatologist. Here the recommendation to a dermatologist is done if the doctor thinks there is something worrying.

Walk in clinic

If you do not have a family doctor you can go to walk in clinic. This is the equivalent of emergencies in France but for doctors: you go to the reception and you wait your turn. Your consultation is supported by your health card if you do not have it you will have to pay your consultation (between $ 69 and $ 130, prices vary when I look online so do not hesitate to ask)

I tested only once the first year I was here, I did not have a health card at the time (I did not know that I was entitled to it), I had paid about sixty dollars that my WHV insurance had refunded. I had waited 1 hour or 2. The exam had been fast. The disadvantage is that you have no follow up unlike your family doctor who has a record for you.

Hassle Free Clinic

This clinic offers free care and advice around sexuality. There are different schedules for men and women, it is also a clinic LGBTQ + friendly, you can do your tests and get a free treatment, even without a health card. Attention is first come first served so come a little early.

Contact: 66 Gerrard Street East, 2nd Floor. Toronto – 416-922-0566

Emergency Room

Obviously, if something more urgent happens to you, you can go to the emergency rooms in the different hospitals of the city. You can go there yourself or call the fire department (911). Your visit will be supported by your health card, do not forget it. You can find the average waiting time per hospital here. More information on emergencies on their website.

Pharmacy

Do not expect to find pharmacies with bright green signs at every street corner like in France. You will find some independent pharmacies here and there but most are hiding inside Shoppers Drug Mart or Rexall. In some stores you can order your medicine on their app in advance so you do not have to go to order. Unlike France where pharmacies have a lot of stock here it is common to order the drugs, do not hesitate to take several days before if you need something for a specific date (yes you can feel the experience here, I ran after something a short time ago, I called all the pharmacies because I had an appointment in the afternoon so if I had known I would have ordered a few days before.) delay is 24h in general.

Also note that even if the drugs are available you will often be asked to return in 10 minutes to give them time to pack the drugs in a box in your name (yes, as in the movies).

Many products that are served at the counter in France are self-service here like Advil, pregnancy tests, etc.

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Gynecologist

As I said above you can also see your family doctor. If you still want to have a gynecologist you must ask to be recommended by your family doctor to the gynecologist you have chosen. Your doctor sends the info to your gynecologist. You can then call to make an appointment. For my part I preferred to have a different person after I stopped birth control as I mentioned here. The doctor who had been recommended to me turned out to be on maternity leave, the chance has done well the things her replacement is a francophone gynecologist.

Recommendation: Rosedale Medical Centre – Dr Ayesha Raza – 416 922-0840.

You can also contact Women’s College Hospital which has been recommended many times to me.

Dermatologist

In the same way as the gynecologist you will need to be recommended by your family doctor who can already make a first diagnosis and judge if your case requires the advice of a dermatologist.

Dentist

Let’s talk about teeth, it’s a topic taken very seriously here, you’ve probably already noticed that many Canadians have an impeccable smile worthy of American series? Well it’s because here it is recommended to do a cleaning every 6 months (sometimes 3) when in France we recommend one per year and it is much less thorough than here.

  • How is an appointment at the dentist in Canada? You can make an appointment at the dentist of your choice, you will have a first appointment to take stock, the state of the situation (analysis by the dentist, radios, photos). And then do not be afraid because a lot of French people find themselves stupid to learn that they have 4..6 .. or more cavities! I was in this case there and several girlfriends too. As I told you in the intro our health in general is neglected when we move abroad, if I do not hurt is that everything is fine, and the controls quickly go to the door. My hygienist (the person who deals only with descaling) summed it up well by telling me that in North America (and some other countries in the world) have is in prevention while in the rest of the world is expected the problems to act.
  • The dentist will get a full overview of the condition of your dentition, for me for example I had the gums very inflamed, I had to go through several cleaning (under local anesthesia so I was bad that is saying ..), I have several caries (called cavities in English, have them look after themselves: getting a filling) and I could see the difference right away. Here cleaning is not taken lightly: it lasts an hour and everything goes! You come out with a teething on top! I am really impressed and I really appreciate the time it takes. I have never had such beautiful teeth!
  • Price: if you have a mutual you will have a budget year-round keeping in mind that you will still be refunded up to 80% per consultation. If you do not have a mutual insurance companies like mine offers a “flat fee” (package).
  • Be careful also to which dentist you consult, some may a little dramatize your case to force your hand. The American drama side where everything is a matter of life and death and especially super urgent. If you do not have a good feeling or you do not trust look for another dentist..

Recommendation: Baywell Dental Centre – Dr Jeanie Luong, 1033 Bay St #217 – (416) 961-6630

A friend recommended it to me and I love it! Really ! She is super sweet and patient. I really felt confident. I still had a lot of dating with her in the last 9 months and she has always been very transparent with me.

Osteopath

Your mutual insurance covers osteopathy (and chiropractic among others), you have a yearly budget of annual medicine. You do not need a recommendation from your doctor, just check that the practitioner you have chosen is certified since it is the condition for you to be reimbursed by your mutual. You will then have to make your declaration on the web site of your mutual with the invoice to make you refund. In general in a few days it is settled.

Recommendation: I recommended it several times on Instagram, if you are looking for a French speaking osteopath you can go there with your eyes closed, he is hyper pro, relieved me of pain that I had for years, that other osteopaths had not managed to control. Pierre Boachon – Sage Health and Welness –  12 Irwin Avenue (south of Yonge/Bloor).

Ophthalmologist and optician

If like me you have glasses it is a mandatory passage. To know that it is also included in your mutual if you are covered but here we have the right to change only every 2 years (except big change of view it seems to me), as it has become the norm since little in France if I’m not mistaken. With your mutual you will have a package for consultation (a consultation costs a hundred dollars) and a package for the pair of glasses (it varies according to mutuals but what I heard around me is between 200 and $ 500). Some opticians have an ophthalmologist on site some days, you can also make an appointment with them.

Tip of the day: we’re not going to lie $ 200 it’s not heavy. What you recommend is to do a little tour on Groupon before, there are very often offers a few dollars (like $ 8 and $ 20 for example) that give you a $ 200 voucher. Before buying go to the store (there are always several shops on Groupon), see the one with the mounts you like the most, have you confirm that you can cumulate mutual and Groupon and you have just offered a $ 400 budget for 10 balls! I shared the good plan on Instagram last year and many of you tried and approved the idea 😉

Recommendations:

  • Ophthalmologist: I tested the shop Yonge & College Optometry. I do not remember the name of the young woman I had but she was adorable! By confirming my appointment, I was asked to bring all my pairs of glasses back to have them checked (I have seven I think), she confirmed that I could still wear them all. I found it really cool I had never had this opportunity before.
  • Optician: for my last 2 pairs I went to Glass Monocle Eyecare on Bloor/Bathurst. They have a choice that comes out of the usual RayBan, they work with real brands of glasses (vs. fashion brands that make glasses) and allow you to not end up with the same pair as your neighbor. The staff are lovely and patient (Mrs Glasses that I am in need of time haha). Under a week / 10 days your glasses are ready.

Abortion

From 1969 to 1988 the request for abortion had to be approved by an “Abortion Therapy Committee”. Since 1988 abortion is considered as any medical act and is not framed by a law as it is the case in France.

  • How many weeks can we abort in Canada? 20 weeks.
  • Where can we have an abortion in Canada? in a hospital or clinic, not all institutions and doctors do it. Find the list here.
  • How much does an abortion cost in Canada? in a hospital the procedure is covered by your health card, in a clinic it can be totally, partially or not at all supported.

 

I hope you will see a little clearer with these explanations! Do not hesitate to ask questions, we are lucky to live in a city where everyone comes from elsewhere, it is easy to explain that we have a difference in culture and we want more details. It also brings a lot of interesting conversations with doctors, for example around sex education (my doctor and my gynecologist learned a lot about France during our appointments, not sure they found it as interesting as me you will tell me haha).

 

Do not hesitate to give me your feedback and tell me if you want me to add or clarify some points.

Take care of yourself. Do not forget to find me on Instagram for everyday life in Toronto: @fringinto.

Love,

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