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bc health services

Sep 28, 2023
BC Health Services in Vancouver – A Quick Guide

Tips for relocating to Vancouver

Vancouver boasts a robust and well-integrated health services system that caters to the diverse needs of its residents. In this guide, we delve into the essentials of healthcare services in Vancouver, helping you navigate with ease.

Introduction to Vancouver’s Healthcare System

The healthcare system in Vancouver, like the rest of Canada, is publicly funded. Once a resident is registered for the Medical Services Plan, healthcare is primarily free at the point of use. 

The British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Health oversees and delivers healthcare services, ensuring quality and accessibility for all residents. Vancouver Coastal Health is the regional body responsible for the provision and management of health services in the city. 

Medical Services Plan (MSP) of British Columbia

The Medical Services Plan (MSP) is the provincial government program that provides basic medical benefits for all BC residents. Enrolling in the MSP is crucial for accessing healthcare services without incurring direct costs for most services.

  1. Enrollment and Eligibility: To access these benefits, residents must enroll themselves and their dependents with MSP. Permanent residents, work permit holders, and even some study permit holders are eligible for MSP.
  2. Coverage: MSP covers medically necessary services provided by physicians, such as consultations, examinations, and surgeries. It also covers diagnostic services, including X-rays. However, not all services are covered; for instance, cosmetic surgeries and some dental procedures are out-of-pocket.
  3. Premiums: As of January 2020, MSP premiums were eliminated, but residents are still required to renew their enrollment annually and keep their personal details up to date.

Hospitals and Clinics in Vancouver

Vancouver is home to numerous state-of-the-art hospitals and medical clinics that offer a wide range of services.

a. Major Hospitals:

  1. Vancouver General Hospital (VGH): The largest hospital in Vancouver, VGH offers specialized care and conducts pioneering medical research.
  2. St. Paul’s Hospital: Centrally located in downtown Vancouver, St. Paul’s offers both primary and specialized care services.
  3. BC Children’s Hospital: Specifically catering to children and women, this institution provides pediatric and maternity care.

b. Walk-in Clinics: For non-emergency care, walk-in clinics are a convenient option. These clinics are scattered throughout the city and serve patients without prior appointments. They handle minor ailments and injuries and bridge the gap when your primary care physician is unavailable.

Specialist Care in Vancouver

If you require specialized medical attention, Vancouver has an extensive network of specialists.

  1. Referrals: To see a specialist, you typically need a referral from a family doctor or primary care physician. This ensures that specialist care is provided to those who genuinely need it and maintains an efficient healthcare flow.
  2. Specialist Fields: From cardiologists to neurologists and everything in between, Vancouver is equipped to handle diverse medical specializations. Depending on your condition, your primary care doctor will guide you to the appropriate specialist.

Dental Care

Though the MSP does not generally cover dental procedures, dental care is an integral part of overall health. Vancouver has numerous dental clinics offering a range of services from regular check-ups to orthodontics. It’s advisable to have dental insurance or a dental plan, as these procedures can be costly.

Mental Health Services

Recognizing the importance of mental well-being, Vancouver has various institutions and programs aimed at supporting mental health.

  1. Counseling and Therapy: Many private practitioners and community clinics offer counseling services. Some of these services operate on a sliding scale fee, making therapy accessible to a broader range of individuals.
  2. Crisis Centers: For immediate mental health assistance, several crisis centers operate around the clock, providing urgent care and support.

Prescription Medications

Pharmacies are abundant in Vancouver. While the MSP covers most medical services, prescription medications typically come out-of-pocket unless you have supplementary insurance. Some provincial programs, like Fair PharmaCare, help reduce the cost based on income.

Health Insurance and Supplementary Plans

To cover services not included in MSP, many Vancouverites opt for supplementary health insurance. These plans can cover prescription medicines, dental care, physiotherapy, and more. Supplemental insurance is often part of an employee benefits package. Many employers offer coverage for your dependents as well. Alternatively, if you are self-employed or your employer does not offer such benefits, you can purchase supplemental insurance plans directly.  


Navigating Vancouver’s healthcare system can initially seem daunting. However, with a grasp of the basics, residents and newcomers alike can make the most of the comprehensive services on offer. 

If you have specific questions about Healthcare in BC, or would like to apply for the MSP, visit the government website here.

Are you new to BC and looking or planning to relocate? HighStreet Accommodations is a corporate housing provider offering fully furnished accommodation to individuals looking for stays of 1 month and beyond. Contact our friendly team to learn more or browse our extensive list of apartment rentals in Vancouver and throughout Greater Vancouver.

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