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As a newcomer, it will take 90 days or three months for you to get medical coverage through several provinces, including Ontario and B.C., so private coverage is critical during this period. Check in your yellow pages or online for companies that offer private health care coverage.

Most Canadians have a family doctor or “GP” (general practitioner), so once you have coverage, you will want to get a GP.  Your GP (or primary care physician), will be your first contact with the formal health care system. Here are some tips on finding a GP.

Ask a friend or family member if their doctor is accepting new patients.

Check with the province’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. They may have a list of doctors accepting patients.

Look in the Yellow Pages of your local telephone book under “Physicians & Surgeons” and cold call to see if they are accepting patients.

Doctors generally control or direct their patients’ access to most health care specialists, as well as to hospital beds. It is also your doctor who decides which diagnostic tests you will need and generally makes the appointments for these tests. Your doctor will also prescribe any necessary medications, which you will then pick up at a pharmacy of your choice.

In other words, with the exception of a medical emergency — in which case you head for the emergency room at your nearest hospital — you will need to visit your primary care physician to obtain treatment or a referral for treatment for any kind of illness or medical problem.

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