Find a doctor or health-care team

Why you need a doctor or nurse practitioner

To get any health service in Canada, you and your family must first have a doctor or nurse practitioner who will refer you to other parts of the health system. They are the keepers of all your medical records and your main point of contact with other health-service providers.

The doctor or nurse practitioner who agrees to have you and your family as regular patients is known as your primary-care provider.

A growing number of doctors and nurse practitioners work at clinics alongside other health-care workers. You might find registered nurses, dietitians and social workers in the same clinic all helping the doctor or nurse practitioner provide you with the best care possible.

How to find a doctor or nurse practitioner

Because of a limited number of doctors and nurse practitioners, it is not easy for anyone to find a primary-care provider in the city.

The Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre can help. The centre keeps a list of doctors and nurse practitioners who:

  • Speak your language
  • Accept new patients
  • Have clinics located close to where you live.

Even with help from the centre, we recommend that all refugees and immigrants sign up with Health Care Connect, an Ontario government program that helps you find a doctor or nurse practitioner if you don’t have one. That’s because some primary-care providers will only accept patients who sign up with Health Care Connect.

To sign up with Health Care Connect, you must:

  • Not have a primary-care provider
  • Have a valid Ontario health card
  • Have an up-to-date mailing address

Health Care Connect will notify you of any primary-care providers that accept new patients.

Another way to find a primary-care provider is through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which governs how doctors practice medicine in the province.

The college has a search engine that allows you to look for doctors who speak your language and are located close to where you live. However, the search engine does not tell you if a doctor is accepting new patients. To find out, call the doctor’s office.

10 things to expect once you have a doctor or nurse practitioner

Once you have found a doctor or nurse practitioner, you will be given an appointment to meet your provider for the first time. Here’s what to expect at your first appointment:

  1. You will be given a tour of the clinic and learn about all the services available there.
  2. You will be told about any fees that you might have to pay out of your own pocket that are not covered by health-insurance plans such as OHIP or IFHP. For example, you could be charged a fee for:
    • Not showing up for your medical appointments.
    • Asking the doctor or nurse practitioner to write a note to your employer saying you are too sick to work.
  3. You will meet one-on-one with your doctor or nurse practitioner to review your medical history and start a medical record to keep track of your ongoing health issues.
  4. You will be told about who else, other than your doctor or nurse practitioner, has access to your private medical records.
  5. You will be told about how to get health services when your doctor or nurse practitioner is not available to see you.
  6. You will be told the standard length of appointments and how to book them.
  7. You will be told how the clinic will communicate with your pharmacist if or when it’s needed.
  8. You will be told of pharmacies and diagnostic labs near the clinic.
  9. You will be asked to sign a piece of paper agreeing to become patients of that doctor or nurse practitioner. That means you and your family agree not go to another doctor or nurse practitioner for your primary-care needs.
  10. You will be told how to change your primary-care provider if you choose to sign up at a later date with another doctor or nurse practitioner.

Learn more

Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade has an overview of health services, including health insurance, medical care, emergency care and prescription drugs. The information is translated into 27 languages, including Arabic, French, Farsi, Somali, Spanish, Urdu.