- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Ottawa Guide (PDF)
Expats moving to Ottawa will soon see that health and wellness are a priority for the residents of Canada’s clean and green capital city.
New arrivals will be pleased to find that, as is the case in the rest of the country, Ottawa offers an excellent standard of healthcare facilities. Generally, all doctors and medical staff will speak fluent English and/or French.
Medical facilities in Ottawa
Public healthcare in Ottawa is administered by Ottawa Public Health, the city’s arm of the federal government plan responsible for delivering public health services.
Public hospitals in Ottawa provide a good standard of care but waiting lists can sometimes be long. Another problem expats experience with the public health system in Canada is that, while the city has lots of hospitals and medical clinics, it is difficult to find a family doctor or general practitioner (GP). Most family doctors in Ottawa have long lists of patients and many clinics put limits on accepting new patients.
It is a good idea to ask co-workers and friends for recommendations on any doctors that are still accepting new patients. Expats can also contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for help in finding a GP.
While waiting to find a doctor, expats can still visit their local walk-in clinic for emergencies or check-ups. Walk-in medical clinics in Ottawa provide prompt medical care for people who are sick but do not have a family doctor. While patients will generally be seen by a nurse rather than a doctor, they do treat most minor illnesses and will refer patients to a doctor if they suspect something more serious. Generally, appointments are not needed but it is best to call before visiting to check the opening hours, as they are subject to change.
Health insurance in Ottawa
As Ottawa falls under the province of Ontario, expats living in the city will be entitled to access the province's publicly funded healthcare system, which is available through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP contributions are automatically deducted from an individual’s salary in taxes.
Expats need to be aware that there is a three-month waiting period before OHIP coverage starts for new arrivals. Expats should apply for their OHIP card as soon as they arrive in the city and ensure that they have purchased some form of private coverage for their first three months in Canada.
Expats should be aware that they will be required to pay for any prescription medicines, as these are not covered by the state’s public health insurance policy. Dentistry and optometry are also not usually covered by OHIP, except under certain conditions.
Most expats living in Ottawa will have additional private health insurance coverage, which is often provided by their employer. This will cover expenses not included in the government health scheme.
Most private health insurance policies will cover the cost of medicines, but patients should keep all receipts to be reimbursed.
Hospitals in Ottawa
Below are some of the most well-respected hospitals in Ottawa.
The Ottawa Hospital
Address: 501 Smyth Rd, Ottawa
Queensway Carleton Hospital
Address: 3045 Baseline Rd, Nepean
University of Ottawa Heart Institute
Address: 40 Ruskin St, Ottawa
The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
Address: 401 Smyth Rd, Ottawa
Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre
Address: 1145 Carling Ave, Ottawa
►For more on medical services in the country, read Healthcare in Canada
►Moving to Ottawa with children? The Education and Schools in Ottawa page is essential reading for expat parents moving to the city
"I have a love-hate relationship with the Canadian healthcare system. On one hand, I’m grateful for the single-payer healthcare system where most of my needs are covered by OHIP, the provincial insurance plan. For instance, I didn’t pay a cent out of pocket for pre- and post-natal care when I had my son. Generally speaking, I trust the system and the quality of care is good. However, we don’t have enough general practitioners and the walk-in-clinic system is awful. It’s hard to get a prescription for antibiotics (sometimes, you do need them!) and it’s hard to be listened to as a patient."
Read some expat experiences with Ottawa's healthcare system in our interview with Juliette Giannesini.
Are you an expat living in Ottawa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ottawa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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