Canada has a high quality health care system that is funded by the government. In Waterloo Region, everyone has access to a wide variety of health resources and services. The costs for many of these are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). These services include community health centres, clinics and walk-ins, eye doctors, dentists, family doctors, hospitals, mental health, public health, emergency services and more.

Most people in Canada visit their doctors or healthcare providers regularly for check-ups to prevent health problems. Before your visit to see a healthcare provider, make a list of everything you want to say and ask.

If you do not speak English, your health provider should provide an interpreter if you ask for one and tell them the language you speak. provides information on health services in many languages. Trained interpreters can be booked through the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre

The Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has partnered with the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre to provide free professional interpretation services in many primary care, community support and mental health/addiction service settings. To find out more, contact the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre.

Your settlement worker can provide you with information to make decisions about your healthcare options.

9-1-1 emergency call number

Call 9-1-1 in any emergency situation to get an ambulance or save a life. This call is free from any phone. If you do not speak English or can not understand the operator, the 9-1-1 operator can get an interpreter for you. Ask for service in your language if needed.

When calling 9-1-1, you should:

  • Remain calm and speak clearly
  • Say what you need (ambulance, police, firefighters)
  • Describe what is happening
  • Give your exact location
  • Give your name and phone number
  • Provide other information requested
  • Do not hang up until the operator tells you it is okay to do so

If you take an ambulance to the hospital, you will have to pay a $45 fee. If your doctor finds that the use of an ambulance was not necessary you will have to pay the full $240 fee.

For more information about how to use 9-1-1, visit the Region of Waterloo website or

Clinics and walk-ins

If you do not have a family doctor but need to see a doctor, you can go to an urgent care medical clinic. These are also called walk-in clinics. These clinics are not for emergencies. If you have an emergency call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital emergency room.

Visit to find a clinic near you. Call ahead to find out what times they are open. You do not need an appointment but you may have to wait.

If you have a health problem, you can also call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. This is a free service offered by the Government of Ontario where you can speak to a registered nurse and get health advice at any time.

Community health centres

For some newcomers to Canada, language barriers, cultural sensitivities and immigration or refugee status can make it difficult to get proper health care. Community Health Centres (CHCs) are non-profit organizations that offer information, health services and other programs to people who may find it hard to get the help they need.

Some CHCs also offer services to people without health cards. They are generally free or very low-cost. All services are confidential and some may be anonymous. Check with your local community health centre to learn about the services they offer.

Other community organizations and clinics may provide health care specifically for newcomers.  Talk to your settlement worker about healthcare options in Waterloo Region.


Most dental services are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Many employers offer dental plans as part of an employee benefits package - check with your employer about dental coverage. Dental plans help employees pay for dental procedures, such as:

  • Teeth and gums cleaning
  • X-rays
  • Filling cavities
  • Removing wisdom teeth

If you do not have an employee plan, you can buy an individual health insurance plan from a private insurance company.

The Canadian Dental Association provides a checklist of information you should know about your insurance. Learn more about dental insurance plans.

If you do not have dental insurance and cannot afford dental treatment, you may be eligible for several financial assistance programs that support dental care. The Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services provides online information about dental assistance and operates dental clinics for eligible children and adults.

Eye doctors

The Ontario Association of Optometrists has information about eye care and how to find an optometrist (eye doctor) in your area. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) does not cover regular eye exams for people aged 20-64 or the cost of eyeglasses and contact lenses. Many employers offer eye care plans as part of an employee benefits package - check with your employer about your coverage.

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides more information on eye care and related health insurance.

Family doctors

You should find a family doctor to provide regular medical care and checkups for you and your family. You need to be registered as a patient to get medical care from a family doctor. It may take a while to find a doctor that is taking new patients. 

Health Care Connect can help you find a family doctor. Call 1-800-445-1822 to sign up.

If you need to medical care but do not yet have a family doctor, you can go to the nearest walk-in clinic. You can also call Telehealth Ontario anytime at 1-866-797-0000 and a registered nurse to get health advice.

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers the cost of most checkups and services from your family doctor. 

Health insurance

Canada has a universal health care system. This means that the government pays for most basic healthcare. In Ontario, health insurance is provided through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). You must have a health card to receive healthcare services covered by OHIP.

It takes at least three months to become eligible for OHIP after first coming to Canada. You should apply for a health card as soon as you arrive in Ontario. You must apply in in person at a Service Ontario centre. Read more about OHIP eligibility and services covered by OHIP.

Many employers offer supplemental health insurance for treatment costs not covered by OHIP. Check with your employer about your coverage.

You should consider buying private health insurance to make sure your family is insured while waiting for your OHIP card. This must be purchased within five days of arriving in Ontario. You may not be approved for coverage if you apply for private insurance 5 days or more after your arrival.

There is also a federal program that provides temporary health insurance for refugees.

Call the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc. at 1-800-268-8099 for more information about private insurance.

Hospitals and emergency departments

There are three excellent hospitals in Waterloo Region that provide comprehensive health care and emergency services for residents.

Grand River Hospital (Kitchener-Waterloo)
Freeport Campus: 3570 King Street East, Kitchener
Kitchener-Waterloo Campus: 835 King Street West, Kitchener
Phone: 519-742-3611 

St. Mary's General Hospital (Kitchener)
911 Queen's Boulevard, Kitchener
Phone: 519-744-3311 

Cambridge Memorial Hospital
700 Coronation Blvd., Cambridge
Phone: 519-621-2330 


You need a prescription from a health care provider to get some medications and drugs. OHIP does not pay for medications. Supplemental health insurance plans may provide partial or full coverage for medications.

You can buy medication at a pharmacy (drugstore). Pharmacists work at the drugstore and can answer any questions you have about your medications.

You do not need a prescription to get over-the-counter medications.

Mental health

You will face changes and challenges as a newcomer to Canada so it is important to focus on keeping good mental health.

Depression, anxiety, marital and relationship issues and other mental health problems can arise as you deal with being far away from family and friends, learning a new language, finding a job and adapting to a new way of living.

There are many excellent local resources available to help you and your family. Many programs and services provide anonymous, confidential counselling and other supports. get in touch with Here 24/7 to connect with the services available at 12 agencies in Waterloo Region.

Your family doctor or settlement worker can provide you with information and referrals to mental health supports in Waterloo Region.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, go to the nearest hospital or call 9-1-1. 

Learn more:

Public health

Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services provides information about many health topics and delivers programs to promote healthy living, protect against health threats and prevent disease and injury. They also provide immunization, dental and other clinics, as well as many other Public Health programs for newcomers in Waterloo Region.


Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services

99 Regina Street South, Waterloo

Phone: 519-575-4400

Emergency call number

Phone: 911

YMCA Immigrant & Employment Services

800 King Street W, Kitchener ON
258 Hespeler Road, Cambridge ON

KW Phone: 519-579-9622

Cambridge Phone: 519-621-1621

Email YMCA Immigrant & Employment Services