Understanding Québec’s Healthcare System

Worried that the infamous Québec winter will leave you fighting the flu all season? Québec’s top-quality healthcare system is there to help! Keep reading to find out how you can access public and private plans, clinics, medical specialists and other services you may need so you can stay in top shape.

Do you have your health insurance covered?

Health is the number one priority in life. That’s why it’s so important to figure out your health insurance as soon as you arrive in Greater Montréal. Whether you’re staying for a few months or are making a permanent move, health insurance is mandatory according to provincial law.

Public health insurance for everyone

The Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) is Québec’s public health insurance plan, giving all Québec residents access to free healthcare. As an international student, you may be eligible for the plan. Certain countries (Belgium, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg and Romania) have reached social security agreements with the Québec government granting access to the RAMQ, so that nationals of these countries can enjoy universal healthcare. Visit the RAMQ website to find out how to register.

Your school is there to support you

Every school wants happy, healthy students. That’s why several universities, CEGEPs, vocational training centres, schools and institutes provide international students with medical insurance when needed. Check on your campus to find out if you’re eligible.

Private insurance offers an alternative solution

If your home country doesn’t have an agreement with the Québec government giving you access to the RAMQ, or if your school doesn’t provide healthcare coverage, you’ll need to take out private insurance. Several insurers including Protecto, Vigilis, April International and Desjardins provide solutions tailored to your unique situation and needs. Be sure to compare plans before making your decision.

What to do in case of a health emergency

Etch these three numbers into your brain: 9-1-1! In case of an emergency, dial this number to contact the police, fire department or paramedics for an ambulance. If you can make it to the emergency room by yourself, you’ll receive healthcare free of charge when you show your RAMQ card.

Who to call for non-urgent issues

If it’s not an emergency but you’d still like to know what’s going on with your big toe that’s turned a weird shade of blue, dial 8-1-1 to reach Info-Santé. This free phone line connects you with local nurses who can offer you expert advice day or night. If you need an in-person consultation, Info-Santé’s professionals will refer you to a medical clinic near you.

Visit a clinic for general medicine

In an ideal world, we’d be able to anticipate health issues before they arise and make a doctor’s appointment ahead of time! But in Greater Montréal, you can always visit one of the many medical clinics in the region during the day if you’re experiencing symptoms. Tip: clinics can get pretty busy so try to arrive as soon as the doors open to make sure you can see a doctor.

What’s the deal with walk-in clinics?

Note that in walk-in clinics, you’ll usually need to wait a while unless you’re the first patient in the door! Make sure you add your name to the waiting list as soon as you arrive. And you might want to bring a book or paper with you so you can catch up on some studying while you wait!

Reserve online to get on the list

To avoid waiting at the clinic, you can always make an appointment for a same-day visit via the  Rendez-vous Santé Québec website. Available to anyone with a RAMQ card, this online service lets you make an appointment from the comfort of your own home—so you can pass the time productively catching up on school work (or your favourite show) instead of sitting at a clinic.

How about family doctors?

Some clinics don’t offer walk-in services and are exclusively for family doctors. If you’re planning to stay in Québec permanently, having a family doctor will make it much easier to book a consultation when you need. Use the Québec Family Doctor Finder (GAMF) tool to sign up to the waiting list.

Clinics on campus

Several universities, CEGEPs and vocational training centres have out-patient clinics on campus. Concordia University, Université de Montréal, McGill Universtity, Cégep André-Laurendeau, Cégep du Vieux-Montréal and Cégep Édouard-Montpetit are just some of the schools offering certain healthcare services to their students.

Visit a CLSC for healthcare close to home

Ever heard of CLSCs? In Greater Montréal, there are close to 30 government-run community health centres dedicated to healthcare, prevention and awareness. Just some of the services offered include consultations (with or without an appointment), home, school and workplace visits, and public health activities. Every neighbourhood has a CLSC so you can get the care you need without going far from home. Visit the Santé Montréal website to find the CLSC closest to you.

Count on your local pharmacist

In Québec, you can stock up on shampoo, buy winter gloves and see a pharmacist, all under the same roof! Easily accessible and always professional, pharmacists can recommend over-the-counter products and medicines to relieve your symptoms or refer you to a doctor for treatment if you need it.

Affiliated pharmacies like Brunet, Familiprix, Jean Coutu, Promix and Uniprix, as well as several independent pharmacies, have counters where you can go to speak with a pharmacist. Check the opening hours of your local pharmacy to take advantage of this totally free service.

See a specialist for specific healthcare needs

When you’re in need of more specialized care, you’ll need to get a referral from your family doctor or a GP to see a dermatologist, podiatrist, gynaecologist or other health specialist. The doctor will assess your situation and give you a referral for a more specialized consultation.

Is dental care covered?

As a general rule, dental care isn’t covered under health plans like the RAMQ, but they are sometimes covered by your school plan or private insurance. Ask your insurer if you’re covered.

Psychological support you can count on

Mental health may be invisible to the eye but it’s just as important as your physical health. A lot of students suffer from stress, anxiety and even burn-out, which is why many schools provide psychological services. Whether or not the issue is related to your studies, you can count on professionals to help and support you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your institution directly to learn more about these services.

Additional services

When it comes to sexual health issues, it can be hard to know where to turn for help. Youth clinics are a great place to start, where trained nurses and gynaecologists can screen you for sexually transmitted infections, provide contraception and administer abortions, among other things. These services are designed exclusively for young people, with professional care providers who are committed to respecting your privacy and integrity.

Physical exercise plays a big role in both your mental and physical wellbeing. In Greater Montréal, you can take part in a host of outdoor sports and activities whatever the season. Take a break from the books to get some fresh air and blow off some steam whenever you can—your mind and body will thank you for it!