- Download our Moving to Ottawa Guide (PDF)
New arrivals will be pleased to find that Canada’s clean and green capital city of Ottawa offers excellent healthcare facilities and first-rate practitioners. Generally, all doctors and medical staff will speak fluent English, French or both.
Medical facilities in Ottawa
Ottawa Public Health, the city’s arm of government health services, administers public healthcare in the metropolis.
Public hospitals in Ottawa provide a good standard of care, but waiting lists can be long. Another challenge expats face is finding family doctors or general practitioners (GPs). Most family doctors in Ottawa have long lists of patients, and many clinics place limitations on accepting new patients.
We recommend that expats ask co-workers and friends for information on any doctors still accepting new patients. Expats can also contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for assistance 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 sick patients who do not have a family doctor. Nurses will generally see the patients for most minor illnesses, while those with potentially life-threatening cases will be referred to doctors for further investigation and treatment. Appointments are not usually necessary, but it is best to call before visiting to check the opening hours, as they are subject to change.
Health insurance in Ottawa
Ottawa falls under the province of Ontario, so expats living in the city can access the province's publicly funded healthcare system, which is available through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Citizens and expats make OHIP contributions through automatic tax deductions from their salaries.
Expats should note that there is a three-month waiting period before OHIP coverage starts. They should therefore apply for their OHIP card as soon as they arrive in the city. Additionally, new arrivals should be sure to purchase private health insurance to ensure they are covered during the waiting period.
Prescription medicines, dentistry and optometry are not part of the OHIP coverage, except under special conditions, so expats will be required to pay for these services. Most expats living in Ottawa will have additional private health insurance, often provided by their employer, to cover these costs.
Patients typically have to pay out of pocket for prescription medicines and submit their receipts to their private health insurance provider 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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