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Canada prides itself on its health care system. All Canadians have access to free, quality health care.

In Peterborough, we have a state-of-the-art hospital, a dedicated Family Health Team and strong community support. Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) is an acute-care facility that provides an extensive range of services. A new facility opened in 2008 to serve more than 300,000 people in the Peterborough area.

Happy family playing in a park

Peterborough was one of the first communities to establish Family Health Team. This successful model brings healthcare providers together to coordinate the best possible patient care. The teams include doctors, nurses, registered dietitians, mental health clinicians and pharmacists.

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides medical care to Ontario residents through the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP). The Ministry also provides in-home care for disabled or ill persons and special equipment for people with disabilities. General guides to health care in Ontario are provided by Ontario.ca and Settlement.Org.

If you need an interpreter to understand a doctor or nurse practitioner, help may be available. You can bring a friend or family member. The hospital has a 24-hour language line. The New Canadians Centre may be able to find a volunteer who speaks your language.

How do I get health insurance?

Health Card – Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

All Canadian citizens, permanent residents, protected persons and some work permit holders who live in Ontario may be eligible for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

When you arrive in Peterborough, ask about eligibility, or apply for a Health Card (OHIP) at the ServiceOntario centre located at 300 Water Street, inside Robinson Place (MNR building). You will need to bring 3 original documents that prove your citizenship/immigration status, residency in Ontario, and identity. Click here to see which documents are accepted.

There is a three-month waiting period before you will be covered by OHIP. This waiting period begins on the day on which you establish residence in Ontario. You must be physically present in Ontario for at least 153 days of the first 183 days after you establish residence. To keep your OHIP coverage, you must always be physically present in Ontario for at least 153 days in any 12-month period. Protected persons do not have to wait 3 months to apply for OHIP.

OHIP does not cover the cost of dental services or prescription drugs.

Refugee claimants may have access to some health insurance from the federal government under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). Protected persons may have access to supplemental health and prescription drug coverage under the IFHP. Information on the IFHP is available on the Government of Canada website.

For more information on OHIP, see the OHIP Eligibility Fact Sheet.

Private Health Insurance

The Ontario Government will not cover your health care costs during the OHIP waiting period. You should buy private health care insurance for this time. This is especially important if you are pregnant or have other specific health needs.

For information on private health insurance options for newcomers, see the guide at Settlement.Org. This article includes a list of private insurance companies.

You can also research options for extended health care at Insurance-Canada.ca.

You may also wish to purchase private health care insurance after you become eligible for OHIP coverage. Private insurance can provide extra coverage for prescription drugs, dental work, eyeglasses, and other services not covered by OHIP. You should also ask your employer if they offer health insurance.

If you cannot afford to pay for prescription drugs, you may be eligible for the Trillium Drug Program. This program is offered through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.


All foreign students must have adequate medical coverage during their stay in Canada.

International students at Fleming College will be insured through ETFS Insurance. International students at Trent University will be covered by the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP). These insurance plans provide basic hospital and doctor services.

Other universities and colleges may also have health insurance plans for their students. There are often extended health benefits for students with OHIP, as well.

How do I find a healthcare provider?

Family Doctors and Nurse Practitioners

When you move to Peterborough, you should try to find a family doctor or nurse practitioner immediately. To do this, you can:

  • Register with Health Care Connect (a service offered by the Ontario Government to help Ontario residents find a family healthcare provider)
  • Ask friends or family members if their healthcare provider is accepting new patients 
  • Use the Doctor Search service from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
  • Register with VON 360 Degree Nurse Practioner- Led Clinic
  • Ask the hospital

What if I don’t have a doctor or nurse practitioner?

If you do not have your own healthcare provider you can go to the Lansdowne Place Walk-In Clinic for normal illnesses.

If it is an emergency, you can go to the Emergency Room at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre. If you are not very sick or seriously injured, you may have to wait for several hours before seeing a doctor. People who are very sick or badly injured will be helped first.

Telehealth Ontario

Smiling father and son resting their foreheads against each other

Telehealth Ontario is a telephone service that lets you talk to a registered nurse at any time. For minor medical issues, this can be faster than waiting in a clinic waiting room. The nurse can give you advice and can tell you if a doctor or emergency room visit is necessary.

Telehealth service is available in English and French. A translator can be provided for more than 100 languages. Telehealth Ontario is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be reached by dialling 1-866-797-0000 or, if you use a TTY phone (teletypewriter), 1-866-797-0007. You do not need OHIP to use Telehealth.

What should I expect when visiting a doctor or nurse practitioner?

Your doctor or nurse practitioner may either be a man or a woman. You may request to see a doctor or nurse practitioner of the same gender as you for religious reasons. Yet, it may not always be possible to meet this request.

Bring your Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) card, IFHP document, or proof of private health insurance coverage to every medical visit. Bring a list of your medications as well.

An adult patient usually sees the doctor or nurse practitioner alone. You may request that a nurse or another adult be present in the examination room.

A parent usually accompanies children under the age of 18. Children over the age of 18 are considered to be adults and visit the doctor or nurse practitioner alone.

What do I do in an emergency?

Emergency Room

If you have a medical emergency, you should go immediately to the Peterborough Hospital Emergency Room. A doctor will care for you at any time of the day.

9-1-1: Police, Fire, Ambulance

If you have a life-threatening emergency and cannot get to the hospital, dial 9-1-1 from any telephone. If you cannot speak English, the 9-1-1 operator can get an interpreter.

Never call 911 in a non-emergency situation as this ties up the operators and prevents them from dealing with real emergencies. The 911 operator will ask you some basic questions such as:

  • Where is this happening?”
  • When did this happen?”
  • What is happening now?”
  • Who is involved?”

For more on how to contact the police read this pamphlet.

An operator will send an ambulance to take you to the hospital. You will need to pay a fee for the ambulance. It will be billed for you to pay later.


If the emergency involves poison, you can call the Ontario Poison Centre for advice at 1-800-268-9017.

What sexual and reproductive health services are available?

Doctors and Midwives

If you are pregnant, you will need a doctor or a midwife to help you with the birth of your baby. Doctors or midwives will provide you with information on how to take care of yourself and your baby. If necessary, they can refer you to an obstetrician. Kawartha Community Midwives provides pregnancy and delivery services in the Peterborough area for low-risk pregnancies. Midwives can help you to give birth to your baby at home or in the hospital. Midwifery services are fully funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and you access them with your OHIP coverage.

Pregnancy Support

The Peterborough Child and Family Centre can provide support throughout your pregnancy through their programs. They also offer post-natal and family programs.

The Peterborough Public Health offers prenatal and post-natal classes, sexual health resources, as well as resources for parents and caregivers.

The Partners in Pregnancy Clinic provides maternity and newborn care up to six weeks of age. Care is available to all patients, either by referral through your family physician or by contacting them directly.

La Leche League offers breastfeeding information and support for pregnant women and new mothers.

Additional Information and Resources

Smiling mother and daughter

The Women’s Health Care Centre provides information on the well-being of all women. This Centre can help you if you are experiencing violence in your home, or if you have been sexually abused or assaulted. Other services include breastfeeding support, an unplanned pregnancy program, and a Mid-life program.

The Sexual Health Clinic provides free and confidential services and information on sexual health, including pregnancy testing, birth control, emergency contraception, and other testing and treatment.

The Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights website provides information on a wide variety of sexual health topics.

The Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre is a non-profit organization established to provide sexual assault services and public education for the community.

What other types of health care are available?

Peterborough Public Health offers a number of clinics and classes including:

Pharmacists cannot diagnose illnesses or prescribe medication for you but can provide information on medications prescribed by your doctor (including side effects) and recommend medication that doesn’t require a prescription.

Medical specialists can only be accessed through a referral from your family doctor or nurse practitioner.

You do not need a referral to see an optometrist. Please note that not all of the services provided by an optometrist are covered by OHIP but may be covered by private insurance or extended health plans. For a list of local optometrists please click here.

Alternative health care, also referred to as “natural” health care, is available in Peterborough. It includes services such as homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture and massage. There are many ways to find alternative healthcare providers. Most alternative health care, including medicine and nutritional supplements, are not covered by OHIP. However, they may be covered by private insurance or extended health plans.

Dental services are not covered by OHIP but may be covered by private insurance or extended health plans. Low-income families can access dental care at Peterborough’s community dental clinic.

The Ontario Dental Association website can help you search for a local dentist.

You can consult the Yellow Pages for a listing of local pharmacies.