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Halifax Healthcare

Nova Scotia Health Medical Services Insurance
(800) 563-8880

Canadian healthcare is a publicly funded system, but most services are still provided by private companies.  To take advantage of the Canadian healthcare, you must be a citizen or be lawfully admitted for permanent residence.  Medicare is the largest government program, and it’s actually an amalgamation of 10 provincial programs.  Each province is mainly in charge of its own healthcare system, in Alberta it’s Alberta Health and Wellness that provides the coverage.  The plan is called the Alberta Healthcare Insurance Plan, and application forms are available online or at doctor’s offices and hospitals.

Most basic hospital and physician services are covered, but prescription drugs and dental care aren’t.  Many Canadians still maintain private health insurance to help pay for services that go uncovered by the public health system, like prescription drugs.  This is frequently part of a benefits package through your employer.

Health care in Canada is free of charge to permanent residents for ‘medically necessary’ treatments. However, most medications required for treatment have to be paid for. If a treatment is deemed not to be medically necessary (such as elective cosmetic surgery), this is not covered by the public system. A large proportion of Canadians has employment or other health plans that cover part or all of the costs of the medicines required for treatment.

Canada’s public health system means that health care services are provided to everyone equally. However, in the recent years, crowded hospitals and emergency rooms, and long waiting times for the treatment have induced a public outcry for better service delivery and private health care centers. Most recently, a court in Quebec ruled that individuals have the right to choose between the public and private health care. It is illegal in Canada to perform medically necessary services outside of the public health system; therefore, there are no private medical establishments. For non-medically necessary services (such as elective cosmetic surgery), there are a number of private establishments.

Eligibility and Conditions
In order to be eligible for health care treatment and services in Canada, you must have a permanent resident status. Some refugees are allowed permanent resident status while in Canada and they are eligible for health care. Keep in mind that there is a 3-month period after the arrival in Canada (if arriving as a permanent resident) before you are eligible for health care. You should purchase private health insurance for that three-month period.

In order to apply for health card in Canada, you will need three of the following:

For Permanent Residents / Landed Immigrants:

  • Canadian Immigration Identification Card
  • Confirmation of permanent residence (IMM 5292 Form)
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Record of Landing (IMM 1000 Form)
  • For Other Immigration

Like all provinces in Canada, Nova Scotia — with the assistance of the federal government — provides a publicly-funded health services program. The Nova Scotia plan, called MSI (Medical Services Insurance) insures eligible residents of Nova Scotia for all medically required physicians’ services provided in the doctor’s office, at home or in hospital. All necessary surgical services are insured, including the services of anesthetists and surgical assistants where necessary, as well as obstetrical care, the treatment of fractures and dislocations, referred specialist services and all diagnostic services. MSI also insures certain dental-surgical procedures performed in a hospital.

In the Nova Scotia system, patients select their own family physician (usually called a general practitioner). If in the course of a treatment a visit to a specialist is required, that appointment is made by one’s family doctor, not by the patient directly. The same applies to admissions to a hospital, visits to clinics for various types of lab tests, X-rays, physiotherapy, etc.

Private medical plans (such as Blue Cross) are available to supplement the provincial plan both for hospital care and extended health services.

People residing in Nova Scotia on a work permit can usually apply for MSI on the first day of the seventh month of residence as a worker and coverage will be backdated to the date of arrival. International students are eligible to apply the first day of the thirteenth month following their date of arrival as students, providing they have not been absent for more than 31 consecutive days.

Doctors / GPs
For all non-emergency health matters, your first point of contact with the health system will be your General Practitioner (GP) or a Physician. All specialized services and treatment are then available through a referral from your GP.

Pharmacies are located in many areas of major city centers. They are usually privately owned, but regulated by the provincial pharmaceutical body. Pharmacies will usually have all common medication in stock and provide prompt service for prescription medicines. Prices for prescription medications in Canada are regulated, so cost less than in some other countries, such as the US for example. There are also over-the-counter medicines for which you do not require a prescription, such as painkillers and allergy remedies. These types of medication can be purchased both in pharmacies and in drugstores.

Dental care is very costly in Canada and it is not covered by provincial health plans. Usually, you will need to purchase insurance that covers a portion or all of your dental expenses, or the coverage might be provided by your employer. Educational institutions in Canada require foreigners to sign up for their group health plans that cover some part of dental expenses.

Hospitals & Emergencies
Every major city in Canada has one or more hospitals. Normally every hospital has an emergency section. Hospital admission for emergencies is based on the priority of emergency and the availability of space and staff for treatment. If one hospital does not have the available space for treatment, the patient could be taken to another hospital for emergency or other treatment. To access hospital services, you must possess a health card. Foreigners who require hospital services in Canada may be required to pay for them depending on the length of hospital stay and the nature of illness or injury.

For emergencies, call 911 and ask for an ambulance. Always call an ambulance in the case of a medical emergency, regardless of your health cover situation. For non-emergencies, you usually need to be referred by your physician (GP) to the relevant hospital department.


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