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How to Find a New Family Doctor in Canada

How to Find a New Family Doctor in Canada

By Kate Musgrove

Canadians all over have been dismissed by their family doctors over the last year -- there are currently nearly 5 million Canadians with no family doctor, with most actively looking for a new family doctor but unable to find one. We've collected the best resources to find a family doctor for each Canadian province and territory, along with some other information and suggestions.

If Your Existing Family Doctor Discharges You

If you are being discharged from your current family doctor due to their practice closing or being downsized, we suggest that you:

  • Get extra refills on your current prescriptions. Your doctor can typically provide up to six months worth of refills for each medication you take, and you'll need those to bridge the gap while you look for a new family doctor
  • Request any specialist referrals you need. If you've been in "monitor and wait" mode on any health issue, you may want to ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist for that issue. A lack of family doctors means worsening outcomes for health issues and being proactive about referrals can be a literal lifesaver if you are without a family doctor.
  • Appeal the decision. If there are extenuating circumstances that make it particularly difficult for you to find a new family doctor, it’s worth asking them to reconsider their decision and keep you on as a patient.
  • See if you can get in with a family member's doctor. Some doctors that aren't taking new patients will make exceptions for the spouses or immediate family members of their existing patients. So it's worth calling the practices that other people in your family use to see if they'll take you on.

Where to Find a Doctor Across Canada

To help find a family doctor in your area, here are the province- and territory-specific tools, helplines and waitlists:

In many cases, the wait time for the provincial services listed above are 1-2 years long, and we suggest continuing to look for a family doctor on your own, in your community, after registering with your provincial or regional waitlist. For example, you can visit RateMDs and use their doctor search tool. Selecting “Accepting New Patients” and “Near Me” (or entering your city/town) will give you a list of doctors that are listed as accepting new patients. And in most areas of Canada, you can call 811 for non-urgent health queries, including getting additional resources to find a new family doctor in your province or territory.

Numbers Across Canada

While 15% of Canadians are without a family doctor, the issue is more significant in some areas than others -- here's how it breaks down across Canada.

The cause of the family doctor shortage is two-fold. Less doctors are choosing to go into Family Medicine (in 2015, 38% of graduating medical students ranked family medicine as their top choice; in 2022, just 30.7% ranked family medicine as their top choice), with some new family doctor positions across Canada going unfilled. Further, some doctors feel that family medicine is an underpaid specialty and the overhead costs of administering a practice mean their margins are tight. Other doctors are reducing the number of patients in their general practice so they can work in other, more profitable roles (such as a medical spa setting, where all costs are paid out of pocket, or in a walk-in setting, where they can see a larger number of patients per shift).

Other Options

If you have exhausted the options above and are unable to find a family doctor, two additional options are paid, virtual physician care from providers like Maple, MD Connected or Tia Health. For longer-term, more comprehensive care, some Canadians have opted for private, concierge service from providers like Cleveland Clinic or MedCan. (Of course, while this option makes sense on an individual level, more Canadians moving to a privatized healthcare option means more higher-paying job openings for healthcare workers on the private side which will decrease the publicly-funded doctor workload which will only exacerbate the current situation.)

In general, this is a tricky situation that many Canadians are navigating, and it is undoubtedly contributing to a host of other healthcare problems -- overcrowded ERs, long wait times, tremendous disparity in health care availability between urban and rural areas, and much more.

Showing 8 Most Recent Comments

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    • Was this doctor in Barrie? I had my doctor drop that same line on me but I got lucky and found a new one right away
      My doctor was in Toronto. But I think a lot of doctors are moving away from family practice into higher-paying specialties.
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    • Was this doctor in Barrie? I had my doctor drop that same line on me but I got lucky and found a new one right away
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    • There a law I heard and whether it's true who knows, but I heard family doctors are becoming less and less simply because as to how many patients they can have within a day. Now, I heard with walk ins that not the case so this is why more family doctors are doing walk ins. It's all has to do with how much they can make within a day
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    • Often new docs cannot afford to set up their own practices (large overhead)
      So for awhile anyhow they work out of the Walk In Clinics
      Do a tour of the clinics in your immediate area
      And see if they have any signage up saying one of the Doctors there is in the first stages of building a family practice … and taking new patients
      You are 100% right -- I found my last family doctor (in 2010 or so) by seeing a walk-in doctor consistently and then asking if they'd take me as a proper patient. I meant to include that tip in the article but forgot -- I'm going to go back and add it in!
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    • I have lost several family doctors in the last few years. One had his clinic reorganize and serve complex and vulnerable patients, and dropped their generally healthy patients like me. I lost another one to the housing crisis, she became pregnant and left for the Island where she could afford to buy a home. My current doctor is in her late 30s and is on mat leave. I expect she will probably skip town for the Island or Okanagan too. The housing crisis is manifesting itself in all sorts of ways.
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    • Often new docs cannot afford to set up their own practices (large overhead)
      So for awhile anyhow they work out of the Walk In Clinics
      Do a tour of the clinics in your immediate area
      And see if they have any signage up saying one of the Doctors there is in the first stages of building a family practice … and taking new patients

      Believe that’s how I found a family doctor previously
      Last time we moved back to Ontario

      Also if you have a family doctor for a few years / long time
      And are just relocating to another part of the same province
      You should ask if they know any docs in that region

      Sometimes they do
      And that personal referral
      Will get you the introduction …
      Toe in the door to finding a new doctor
      Even ones that otherwise aren’t taking new patients
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    • The list itself had about 12 names on it and I called down the list. 8 of the 12 answered the phone and none were actually taking new patients. They all told me there is a wait list and I have to fill out a form to even get on the wait list.
      This was pretty much my exact experience in Toronto! More calls overall, but same success rate.
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    • I had to find a new family doctor since I moved to the Windsor area last September. My previous doc was in Mississauaga.

      How I found my doctor:
      I went to the regional health website for my service area, in my case Windsor-Essex. The site has a list of doctors that are accepting new patients. The list itself had about 12 names on it and I called down the list. 8 of the 12 answered the phone and none were actually taking new patients. They all told me there is a wait list and I have to fill out a form to even get on the wait list. I filled out a form for my husband and I and 2 months later I got a call from a doctors office to come in. The appoint itself was two months from the phone call. So from the time I filled out the form and actually saw a family doctor was 4 months. Fortunately she took my husband and I as patients.
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