Health Care in British Columbia

Residents of British Columbia are offered free medical services under the Medical Services Plan which covers all residents and their dependents. The goal is to ensure that all people have access to health services, supplies, and medications. Medical Resources Financial Resources

Health Care in British Columbia

How the System Works

The Ministry of Health works in cooperation with the First Nations, five regional, and provincial health authority to deliver healthcare services. The provincial and regional health authorities liaise to provide specialized services such as cancer treatment, transplants, and heart surgery. The provincial authority also oversees a number of agencies, among which the BC Renal Agency, BC Emergency Health Services, and BC Centre for Disease Control. The First Nations Health Authority is responsible for the provision of services in First Nations communities. Focus areas include traditional healing, substance use and mental wellness, and management and prevention of chronic conditions.

Medical Services Plan

Public health insurance offers coverage to permanent residents and citizens who are BC residents. All residents pay monthly premiums based on their adjusted net income. Financial assistance is available to individuals who fall under the threshold of $42,000 a year. To apply for coverage, residents must provide accepted identification such as Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, Record of Landing, Permanent Resident Card, etc. They are asked to fill in information such as their personal health number, most recent move to BC and Canada, and spouse legal name. Under the Medical Services Plan, residents are offered coverage for maternity care, medical services, diagnostic services, and eye examinations. Medical benefits also include oral and dental surgery, except for root canals, fillings, crowns, and caps. Orthodontic services are also covered but only for birth defects such as congenital facial abnormalities. Supplementary benefits are also available to eligible individuals such as those living in long term care residencies and income assistance recipients. Covered benefits include non-surgical podiatry, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic, naturopathy, and massage therapy. Some services are not covered under the Medical Services Plan, and residents are free to purchase additional coverage. Examples include screening tests and preventative services, prescription drugs, and services provided by psychologists and counselors. The list of benefits that are not covered also includes equipment and aids such as hearing aids and eye glasses, cosmetic surgery, and tests and examinations for immigration, sports and recreation, university and school, life insurance, employment, and driver’s license. Prescription drugs and routine eye examinations are not covered. Financial resources: and


PharmaCare is a plan that offers coverage for medical supplies and prescription drugs, and residents qualify based on net income. Coverage is offered to couples and single parents with dependent children, common law and married couples, and single persons. The plan covers certain pharmacy services, dispensing fees, some medical devices, and prescription medications. Devices and supplies that are covered under the plan include ostomy supplies, orthoses, and prostheses, including ear, nasal, ocular, breast, and limb prostheses. Diabetes supplies are also covered, including insulin, syringes and needles, and blood glucose test strips. The plan covers medication review services, clinical services fees, and dispensing fees, based on frequency. To apply for coverage, residents are asked to provide information such as their net income, social insurance number, date of birth, and personal health number. The level of coverage is based on total family income minus deductions. Only persons who have coverage under the Medical Services Plan are eligible to apply.

Interim Federal Health Program

Coverage for certain categories of people is offered under the Interim Federal Health Program. Eligible individuals include detainees, victims of human trafficking, refugee claimants, protected persons, and resettled refugees.

Hospitals in Vancouver

Patients are offered treatment and medical services in many clinics and hospitals across Vancouver, among which the Vancouver General Hospital, Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, and British Columbia Children’s Hospital.

Vancouver General Hospital

One of the largest medical facilities and the second largest in Canada, the Vancouver General Hospital is the home to a number of divisions such as the Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, Eye Care Centre, May Pack Arthritis Centre, and BC Injury Prevention Centre. The hospital caters to patients with orthopedic traumas, arthritis, leukemia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic and serious conditions. There is also a Centre for Hip Health and a Short Term Assessment and Treatment Centre. The hospital runs a variety of programs such as the Work Adjustment Program and Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program. There are forty outpatient clinics and an emergency department.

Mount Saint Joseph Hospital

Mount Saint Joseph provides medical and emergency services, including healthcare support, surgical services, seniors’ services, and outpatient programs. The Surgical Program offers services in procedure and operating rooms, including vascular, urology, thoracic, orthopedic, and gynecology surgeries. The hospital also provides intensive and hospice care, end of life care, and primary health care. It is the home to a number of clinics and centres such as the Diabetes Health Centre, Community Dialysis Units, and Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention Clinic.

Residential services are offered as well, including diagnostic and treatment services and outpatient and inpatient services. The Centre for Health Evaluation & Outcome Sciences conducts research with a focus on urban populations and at-risk groups. Target groups include patients with infectious diseases, substance use disorders, and mental illness as well as members of ethnic minorities and First Nations people.

Healthcare support services are available as well, including radiology, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, and music therapy. Music therapy is offered to help improve the mental, emotional, and physical health of patients. The speech-language pathology unit specializes in swallowing and communication disorders and provides guidance, counseling, and treatment. Speech-language pathologists offer treatment and evaluation for disorders such as hearing impairments, fluency and voice disorders, aphasia, dysarthria, and cognitive – language impairments. Healthcare professionals working in Mount Saint Joseph are involved across a variety of programs with a focus on cardiac problems, rehabilitation, elderly care, and HIV/AIDS.

British Columbia Children’s Hospital

The British Columbia Children’s Hospital offers a number of medical services, including tertiary, outpatient, and inpatient care. Patients have access to intensive care, pediatric health care, emergency care, and other services. The hospital has an emergency department – the Pediatric Trauma Centre and offers different programs such as the Hospital Vendor Corner Program and SweetLegs Pop Up. The BC Children’s Hospital Foundation works in cooperation with the children’s hospital and raises funding in support of training and child education programs, purchase of equipment, research, and enhanced pediatric care.

Clinics and Healthcare Centres

A number of clinics also operate in Vancouver, among which the Loyal Medical Clinic and Copeman Healthcare Centre. The Loyal Medical Clinic offers walk-in services, childhood immunizations, early prenatal and women’s healthcare, and medical services for international visitors and students. The Copeman Healthcare Centre also provides a range of medical services and open services. Patients are offered nutritional counseling, psychotherapy, massage therapy, and brain and psychological health care.

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