By Junko Mifune (JSS Counsellor)
Many of us are bewildered by the Canadian healthcare system, which is different from the one in Japan. In this article, I would like to summarize the general healthcare system in Canada, and introduce you to Community Health Centres in Ontario.
First, please visit the website of the Japanese Embassy in Canada shown below, which provides a clear explanation of the Canadian healthcare system in general. On July 6, 2013, Dr. Jonathan Carr (family doctor) and Dr. Shinya Ito (professor of pediatrics at Sick Children’s Hospital) delivered a seminar on healthcare in Canada organized by Toronto Japanese Association of Commerce and Industry.  With the approval of the Japanese Embassy, I would like to share the content of the seminar here.  Dr. Ito had delivered several seminars on healthcare seminars for JSS in the past. The website mentioned above can be accessed here:
Many people are unaware of the fact that there are 108 local Community Health Centres (CHC’s) in Ontario that are governed by the Ministry of Health (Ontario Health Integration Network).  The goals of CHC’s are to provide primary healthcare, health promotion and programs that reflect the needs of the people in each service area. Each CHC has so-called catchment or service area. This system allows the residents in the area access to the closest CHC.
CHC’s also focus on working with people who tend to have a harder time accessing regular medical care. Among these are new comers, people with physical and mental disabilities as well as the financially challenged, seniors, and those who do not have family doctors (The priority for seeing a family doctor at CHC’s would be determined by the health condition and/or other needs of a person). When you register to use services at CHC’s, you will be asked to present your OHIP card, however, CHC’s also provide services to people who do not have OHIP like those who have refugee status. All medical services and programs are free of charge to all clients. CHC’s services are not limited to providing free primary health care, but their services and programs should reflect the needs of local community. Services are provided by doctors, nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, chiropodist, social workers, health promoters, or community health workers.
CHC’s also promote active participation of community members in organizing various community initiatives (e.g., food and meal programs, community gardening, advocacies on health related issues). The core model of these projects stems from the idea that by providing opportunities for people to socialize and support each other, raise awareness on health related topics, or work together on certain issues that are important to the residents will lead to empower and promote healthy communities as well as social and economic improvement of the local communities.
The basic principle of CHC’s operation focuses on the social determinants which influence people’s health and wellbeing that is not limited to the accessibility to medical care. Other determinant factors are: income and educational level, employment and work conditions, early childhood development, food security, housing condition, social isolation or exclusion, social network, aboriginal status, gender, race and race discrimination, culture, and disability.
CHC’s provides primary health care and programs that reflect the needs of local communities and helps to prevent unnecessary access to emergency hospitalization that is costly. CHC’s cost effectiveness to society at large has attracted considerable attention recently. Most CHCs provide interpretation services as well.
To find the nearest CHC program to you, please check the website of the Association of Ontario Health Centres shown below (Choose “Find a Centre,” and simply enter your home address or postal code):