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Navigating a Health System Under Stress: FAQs for Patients

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Updated January 5, 2024


Are doctors available to provide care?

Yes, doctors are available to provide care both in-person and virtually. Reach out to your doctor and find out what care is appropriate for your needs, and the best way you can receive it.

If you do not have a doctor or you are unable to see your regular doctor, Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) is a free, confidential service you can call to get health advice or information to determine your options. If you are having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

What kinds of issues can a pharmacist help me with? Does my doctor get information from my pharmacist about any of the issues I may have shared with the pharmacist?

As of October 1, 2023, pharmacists in Ontario are authorized to prescribe medications for 19 minor ailments:

  • Acne
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Aphthous Ulcers (canker sores)
  • Candidal stomatitis (oral thrush)
  • Conjunctivitis (bacterial, allergic and viral)
  • Dermatitis (atopic, eczema, allergic and contact)
  • Diaper dermatitis
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful periods or menstrual cramps)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Herpes labialis (cold sores)
  • Impetigo
  • Insect bites and urticaria (hives)
  • Tick bites, post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent Lyme disease
  • Musculoskeletal sprains and strains
  • Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy
  • Pinworms and threadworms
  • Urinary tract infections (uncomplicated)
  • Vulvovaginal candidiasis (yeast infection)

Pharmacists who prescribe medications for minor ailments are required to notify a patient’s primary care provider (i.e., family doctor or nurse practitioner) within a reasonable time to support continuity of care and positive treatment outcomes.

More information can be found on the Ontario College of Pharmacists’ (OCP) Minor Ailments webpage.

My family physician has closed their practice. How do I find a new doctor/where do I go for primary care?

Finding a doctor — This is a service provided by Health Care Connect, a service created by the Ontario Ministry of Health to help Ontarians without a family health care provider find one. They can be reached at 1-800-445-1822.

Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) is a free, confidential service you can call to get health advice or information to determine your options.

Can my physician charge a fee for transferring my medical records to my new provider?

Yes. Copying and transferring medical records is an uninsured service, and physicians can charge patients a reasonable fee for obtaining a copy or summary of their medical records. Fees must reflect reasonable cost recovery — the cost of the materials used, time required to prepare the material and the direct cost of sending the material to the individual making the request. Physicians must consider the patient’s ability to pay, and that physicians must retain original records and only transfer copies to others. Generally, the Ontario Medical Association recommends charging $30 for the first 20 pages and $0.25 per page thereafter.

What are my options for virtual and in-person care?

Over the last few years, we have seen a significant increase in the use of virtual care. While virtual care can be preferable in some instances, in-person visits are necessary where physical contact is required to provide care/services (e.g., newborn care, prenatal care, vaccine administration) and other diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (e.g., Pap smears and biopsies), or where physical assessments are necessary to make an appropriate diagnosis or treatment decision.

If you are concerned about receiving care virtually, including concerns about your ability to use or access technology, let your doctor know. It’s important for your doctor to be aware of your concerns or limitations to ensure you are receiving the best and most appropriate care.

Can I accompany someone or bring someone else to an in-person doctor’s appointment?

Caregivers play an essential role in helping patients during appointments. Different policies have been in place at various times during the pandemic about whether caregivers or family can attend appointments with you. Speak with your doctor about your situation, and whether it’s appropriate and safe to bring someone with you to your appointment.