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How To Get A Family Doctor in BC

April 17, 2024 • read

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How To Get A Family Doctor in BC

We believe that Canadians should have great medical care regardless of where they live. Unfortunately, residents in some parts of the country are struggling to access primary care. This is especially true in British Columbia where 27% of the population finds themselves without one.

If you’re part of this group, know that you’re not alone. We’re here to explain how to find a family doctor in BC and help you access care while you wait.

How to get a family doctor or Nurse Practitioner (NP) in BC

With more than a quarter of the province actively in need, the odds of finding a family doctor in BC may seem similar to hitting the lottery. However, it is possible.

Whether you’re trying to figure out how to find a family doctor in Vancouver or Penticton, begin your search by registering with the province. Known as the Health Connect Registry, this government service matches BC residents who need a family doctor with providers who are accepting new patients.

How to find a family doctor in BC who is accepting new patients 

Registering with the province is a great first step, however, it may take a while. To help speed things up, consider exploring some of these tried and true ways of finding a provider that’s accepting new patients.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) maintains a directory of doctors in the province. Use this to find practices nearby and call to see which ones are currently accepting new patients. Even if they’re full, feel free to ask about waitlists so you don’t miss out on future openings.

The Pathways to Care directory is also a great resource for finding doctors and other providers near you. As an added bonus, it lists whether they’re taking on new patients or not.

If these options don’t bear fruit, consider making use of your social networks to see if anyone knows of a provider taking on new patients.

If any of your nearest and dearest have a doctor, consider asking if their provider will take you on. Sometimes, family doctors will add a spouse or family member of an existing patient to their roster even if their practice is already full.

Depending on where you live, you may also wish to contact your local Division of Family Practice to see if they can connect you with an appropriate provider in your area.

What’s the process for registering with a family doctor in BC?

Figuring out how to register for a family doctor in BC is a relatively straightforward process. If you end up with one through the Health Connect Registry, they’ll provide the practitioner with your details. From there, it’s up to you to call and make an appointment once you’re informed that you’ve been matched.

If you find a primary care provider another way, you’ll need to provide them with three pieces of information in order to register:

  1. Your name.
  2. Your personal health number (you can find this on the back of your BC services card or the back of your driver’s license if you opted to combine the two).
  3. Your address and contact details.

Provided you have their consent, you can also register family members, including children and partners.

How to get a physical in BC without a family doctor

There’s something comforting about getting an annual physical.  However, if you’re one of the many British Columbians looking for the peace of mind that comes with a yearly check-up, your options are limited.

BC doesn’t cover annual physicals unless you have a pre-existing condition that requires one which means you’ll have to pay out of pocket. These private-pay options cover a wide range — from doctors that charge a small fee to executive health programs that cost thousands — so you’ll likely want to shop around.

However, if you need a physical examination for a medical reason but don’t have a family doctor, consider visiting a walk-in clinic. Providers there can determine how best to support you. And, if they confirm that it’s medically necessary for you to receive a physical, MSP will cover the expense.

How long does it take to get a doctor in BC?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know how long you’ll have to wait for a family physician. Waitlist times depend on different factors, including where you live and whether you have pre-existing conditions. As a result, they can range from weeks to months — or even longer — depending on your individual circumstances.

Most medical issues can’t wait that long. That’s why the provincial government in BC has increased your options. The British Columbia Medical Services Plan (MSP) covers on-demand virtual care visits through Maple. Provided you have a valid BC health card, this means you can connect with a general practitioner for covered visits Monday through Thursday between 10 am and 2 pm PT. 

If you need care outside of those times, you can still see a doctor, however, your visit won’t be covered.

There are many ways to find a family doctor in BC, however, even the most dedicated search can still take a while. Try not to get discouraged. After all, all you need is to find one clinic that’s accepting new patients. But, however long it takes you, know that when you need to see a doctor, we’re here for you. 

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