Whether you have recently moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, or if you have found out that your current doctor is retiring, you will need to find a new family doctor. The task can seem daunting. But, it does not have to be.
Learn the most effective strategies for finding a family doctor in Vancouver as well as where to get health care before you have found a family doctor to call your own.
If you're moving to Vancouver from another province or from another country, make sure you are enrolled in the B.C. Medical Services Plan and have your B.C. Care Card before beginning your family doctor search.
Why You Need a Family Doctor
A family doctor also called a general practitioner or "GP" is basically the cornerstone of health care. Family doctors provide a vast majority of patient care. They get to know you and your health history, monitor your general health and any chronic conditions, and can provide referrals to specialists as needed. Many specialists, like a dermatologist, for example, will not see a patient without a doctor referral. While you can get referrals from doctors at a walk-in clinic, if you have your own doctor, in the long run, it's better for your continuity of care.
Don't Have a Doctor? Where to Go for Health Care
For emergencies, call 9-1-1 for an ambulance or go to the emergency room or urgent care center at any of these Vancouver hospitals: Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital, University of B.C., Lions Gate Hospital, or BC Women's Hospital.
For non-emergency health needs, you can go to any Vancouver walk-in clinic. Walk-in clinics do not require an appointment, although if you can make one, you should. Wait times can be several hours. You would be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, and people who need care more urgently will be seen ahead of you regardless of the time you walk in.
If you are ill or need an annual exam, pap smear, prostate exam, prescription, or similar needs—and you do not have a doctor yet—you should use a walk-in clinic. You can find a walk-in clinic near you and you can find more information on the free B.C. health services app, HealthLinkBC.
How to Find a Doctor Accepting New Patients
The biggest hurdle in finding a family doctor is finding one who is accepting new patients. There are several strategies you can employ to find a new doctor.
- Go to a walk-in clinic and ask there if they know any doctors who are accepting new patients.
- Search online via the College of Physicians & Surgeons of British Columbia.
- Search online via the Vancouver, B.C. Doctor Directory.
- If your family doctor is retiring or leaving Vancouver, be sure to ask for a reference for a new family doctor.
- Ask everyone you know, and ask them to ask their friends, too. Ask as many people as you can if they are happy with their doctor.
How Family and Friends Can Help
If you do not have a doctor or are trying to change doctors because you are unhappy with your current doctor, ask family and friends if they would recommend their current doctor. Be sure to ask for specific details, because what one person considers fabulous traits in a family physician may be exactly what you are not looking for.
A good question to ask would be, "Why do you recommend your doctor?" It's an open-ended question. Let the other person tell you all the good things and not-so-good things.
If it does sound like a match, then ask if they can call and ask if the doctor is accepting new patients. Sometimes, an existing patient might get a different answer than you would if you make a cold-call.
Use Social Media
If you have tried asking your friends and your former doctor, and you still cannot find a doctor, it may be time to let more people know you are looking. You can write a post on Facebook, Twitter, or the bulletin board at work and ask that way.
Also, you can do a little research online. Get a few names and search online to see if the reviews seem positive. It helps to find out what other people are saying about doctors you might be considering.