The ultimate guide to
walk-in clinics
in Canada

Navigating the walk-in clinics in Canada can be challenging and confusing at times. Medical clinics are often necessary whether or not you have a family doctor.
When you need medical care and don’t have a general practitioner or they aren’t available, where do you turn? The answer is Find nearby walk-in clinics. These doctors perform similar services as your family practitioner, but you don’t need an appointment.
Before going to a walk-in clinic, you might wonder what services are covered, which will cost out-of-pocket, and how to avoid long wait times. We’ve created this guide to help answer some of the common questions people have when it comes to walk-in clinics.

What are Walk-In Clinics and Who Can Access Them?

If you’re searching for medical care, you might be wondering “what is a walk-in clinic?” These are offices where you can see medical professionals without an appointment, whether or not you have a family doctor.

Walk-in clinics may also be called “rapid access clinics” or “medical clinics.”

Anyone who has a health card can see a doctor at a walk-in clinic. If you don’t have a health card, you can still see a doctor, but you’ll be required to pay a fee.

There are a few reasons people might visit a walk-in clinic

1. No family doctor

If you recently moved or are searching for a new family practitioner, you have nobody to book an appointment with. An Find nearby walk-in clinics can fill the gap until you find a doctor who’s accepting patients.

2. Family doctor closed or unavailable.

The benefit of walk-in clinics is that many are open for extended hours. If you need medical care outside of your doctor’s hours, you’ll need to find a nearby walk-in clinic. This is often the case when you need care on weekends or at night. Medical clinics can also be used when your doctor is on vacation or fully booked.

3. Convenience.

If you work odd hours or have a busy schedule, 24 hour or after-hours clinics may become a go-to.

What’s the Difference Between a Walk-In Clinic and a Family Practice Clinic?

You can think of a walk-in clinic as a short-term doctor. Although you may see them again if you visit the same clinic, they’re not considered your family general practitioner.

At a family practice clinic, you’ll see a physician for continuous care, who you can routinely book appointments with. They’re your go-to for check-ups, concerns or prescriptions refills. 

At a walk-in, instead of booking an appointment, you can wait in line to see a doctor who will hear your concern. Rather than having a time slot, it’s first come, first served.

With Medimap, you can check the wait times at walk-in clinics so you can choose the clinic with the shortest wait time. Additionally, many clinics listed on Medimap offer online check-in so patients don’t need to physically visit the clinic to add their name to the waitlist.

Walk-in doctors perform many of the same services as family doctors; however, they’re typically less familiar with your medical history.

While walk-in clinics generally have “temporary” doctors, some also have family doctors who may or may not be accepting patients. These “hybrid” offices allow you to book an appointment with your family doctor on days they’re available. When they’re not available, you can return to the same office, but you’ll see a walk-in doctor instead.

When Should You Access a Walk-In Clinic vs. the Emergency Department?

If you’re in a serious or life-threatening condition, such as trouble breathing or severe pain, call 9-1-1 or visit your nearest emergency centre. Examples of serious or life threatening injuries include:

As a general rule, you should visit the Emergency Room (ER) if:

Walk-in clinics are not suitable for emergencies. They are designed to provide quicker care for non-life-threatening conditions when going to a family doctor is not an option. 

How Do I Find a Family Doctor?

A family doctor is your primary care provider for continuous care. This is the person you would make an appointment with if you have a new non-emergency health concern. If you don’t have a family doctor, you’ll need to find a family practice accepting patients. Each province has specific ways in which residents should find a family doctor.

To find a family doctor in your area, please visit medimap.ca and enter your postal code or city, and search for “walk-in clinics”.

Then on the search results page, click the link near the left of the screen which says “Are you looking for a family doctor? Click here to find one”. This will generate a list of clinics that have family doctors accepting new patients. You can give them a call to schedule a consultation.

Alternatively, each province has a resource to help people find a family doctor. 

Ontario

To find a doctor in Ontario, use the Find a doctor or nurse practitioner page and register Register with our Health Care Connect service and have a nurse find a doctor or nurse practitioner for you.

British Columbia

The BC College of Family Physicians provides a number of options to help residents find a family doctor. 

Quebec

To find a family doctor, you can register on the waiting list of the Québec Family Doctor Finder (GAMF). The waiting time varies depending on the availability of doctors and the number of registrations in your region.

Manitoba

The Family Doctor Finder allows residents to register to be connected with a home clinic that will meet your needs. 

Alberta

Alberta Find a Doctor allows people to search by location to see which family doctors are accepting new patients. 

New Brunswick

Patient Connect NB is designed to help residents of New Brunswick find a primary care doctor. Register to be connected with a doctor who is accepting new patients in your area.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Use the Find a Doctor NL directory to see a list of family doctors accepting new patients. 

Northwest Territories

A list of physicians in the Northwest Territories can be found here and clinics can be contacted individually. 

Nova Scotia

The province recommends patients call 811 or register with the Need a Family Practice Registry, which is a waitlist.

Nunavut

The territory’s Department of Health provides contact numbers and a map to healthcare services where physicians can be found. 

Prince Edward Island

Residents should use the Patient Registry Program that helps connect Islanders to a family doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients. 

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Health Authority keeps a list of doctors that are accepting new patients by region

Yukon

The Territory has a Find a family doctor service that helps residents get matched with a doctor that is accepting new patients. 

Do I Need to Visit a Walk-In Clinic In-Person to Speak with a Doctor?

Traditionally, walk-in clinics were only offered in-person. The reason they’re called “walk-ins” is that you need to go to a physical location, join a waitlist, and wait your turn to see a doctor.

Originally, provincial governments didn’t pay providers who offered virtual services, meaning there was less incentive for virtual walk-in clinics.

During COVID-19, virtual services became the norm. Today, every provincial government pays doctors to offer virtual services. As such, you can now easily book a walk-in clinic appointment that takes place over the phone or video chat.

Although in-person appointments are necessary sometimes, many concerns can be addressed virtually. Phone and video chats allow your doctor to verbally assess you or answer your questions. In some cases, a doctor may ask you to send a photo or show you the affected area on video.

Some virtual clinics work with doctors all over Canada. To speak with a local doctor, use Medimap to find one that is currently offering video and phone appointments. Use the filters to find walk-in clinics nearby that offer in-person, phone, or video visits. Alternatively, you can also speak to the next available doctor via video call by selecting Virtual Care from the Medimap homepage.

Can I Book an Appointment at a Walk-In Clinic?

Walk-in clinics can add you to a daily waitlist to see a doctor as soon as you show up in-person or call. Many clinics listed on Medimap offer online check-in so patients can simply submit a check-in request to add their name to the waitlist without physically visiting the clinic or calling ahead.

However, if you’d prefer to schedule an appointment for a future date/time rather than be put on the waitlist for the day, you can contact a clinic directly to book an in-person or virtual visit.

When I Visit a Walk-In Clinic, Where Does the Record of My Visit Go?

When you visit a walk-in medical clinic, the clinic keeps your patient record on file, similar to if you saw a family doctor. The main difference is that when you visit a walk-in clinic, there is no guarantee that you will see the same doctor every time. 

When you see your family doctor, information about your visit is saved so they can refer to it during future visits. However, when you go to a walk-in clinic, your record is kept on file. Processes for maintaining patient records may vary by province and clinic type and location. 

For example, in Saskatchewan, walk-in doctors must advise patients that information about the visit will be sent to their family doctor if they have one. Patients can also request that information not be sent.

In many other locations, such as the Greater Toronto Area, information isn’t typically sent to your family doctor. Many medical record systems aren’t connected. Although the walk-in physician documents the visit, your family doctor usually won’t know about it unless you tell them.

To update your family doctor, you can make a secondary appointment with them so they can add it to your file. This is ideal for concerns or conditions that need additional or long-term care.

Why Do Walk-In Clinics Sometimes Close Early and Turn Me Away?

In some cases, a walk-in clinic may close earlier than its stated hours of operation. This is because some provinces set a maximum capacity for how many patients a clinic can see each day. Since the office can’t bill the government past a set limit, they shut down for the day.

To avoid being turned away, you can use Medimap to see which clinics have already reached capacity and which are still open.

What Medical Clinic Services are Covered/Free?

Under Canada’s universal healthcare system, basic necessary medical services are covered when you present your valid health card. While walk-ins are generally free, you might be charged a fee if you don’t live in that province or territory.

Each province has its own health plan, but here is what is generally covered when you visit a medical clinic in Canada:

What Walk-In Clinic Services Are Covered By My Provincial Health Plan?

The walk-in clinic services covered vary by province. Each provincial health plan covers a different set of medical services.

What Services Can a Nurse Practitioner Offer vs. a General Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner can offer many of the same services as a general practitioner, with a couple of differences.
General Practitioner (Doctor) Services
Nurse Practitioner services

Depending on your preference and condition, you might work with both a general practitioner and a nurse practitioner.

What Services Do I Have to Pay for at a Walk-In Clinic?

The following is not generally covered. Fees will apply if not covered by other health insurance plans (i.e. a work health insurance plan):
Remember to bring your health card to the walk-in to ensure your services are covered. Those without a health card can see a doctor but will be required to pay a fee. According to the Wellesley Institute, the average cost of a walk-in clinic appointment in Toronto without OHIP is $60.

In some cases, a walk-in doctor may suggest another diagnostic test, such as an ultrasound. In these cases, they’ll refer you to an appropriate centre or hospital nearby. As long as the tests are deemed medically necessary, they’re covered under your provincial health plan.

What Healthcare Services Can a Walk-In Clinic Doctor Refer Me To?

A walk-in clinic doctor can refer you to a variety of additional healthcare services.
The following is not generally covered. Fees will apply if not covered by other health insurance plans (i.e. a work health insurance plan):
Fracture Clinics

Treatment for fractures and x-ray services aren’t generally provided at walk-ins. However, to access a fracture clinic, you typically need a referral from a doctor. To get that referral, find an nearby walk-in clinics near you.

If your fracture is confirmed, the doctor will refer you to a clinic with x-ray services. Some clinics are located in medical buildings with x-ray services down the hall, making it convenient.

Both the x-ray referral and fracture clinic treatment are covered under Canada’s universal healthcare system.

Clinics for Blood Work

If you’re looking for a clinic for blood work, consider that you’ll need paperwork first. Although you can’t request a test from a lab, a doctor can. To get a blood work form, you can visit a walk-in clinic and provide a valid reason.

For example, you can tell the doctor that you don’t have a family practitioner and you need routine blood work. They will likely ask the last time you’ve had a general check-up and assess whether you’re due for one.

Doctors also suggest tests to confirm some infections or conditions, like hepatitis or diabetes.

When blood work is ordered by a doctor, it’s covered as long as you bring your health card to the lab.

You can also ask your walk-in doctor to suggest nearby labs. Often, walk-ins are located in medical buildings next to a clinic for blood work. For example, if you’re looking for a convenient blood work walk-in clinic in Toronto, you can visit MCI The Doctor’s Office (Royal Bank Plaza location) and bring your forms to the lab in the same building.

Clinics/Hospitals for Other Diagnostic Tests

In some cases, a walk-in doctor may suggest another diagnostic test, such as an ultrasound. In these cases, they’ll refer you to an appropriate centre or hospital nearby. As long as the tests are deemed medically necessary, they’re covered under your provincial health plan. 

Medical Specialists
Some concerns and conditions require a specialist, such as a gynecologist, urologist, or cardiologist. The referral to and services provided by these specialists are typically covered under provincial health plans (as long as they’re deemed medically necessary).

How Do I Find a Walk-in Medical Clinic Near Me?

If you need to visit a walk-in clinic, visit medimap.ca to locate clinics in your area and their contact information. Enter your location, and select Walk-in Medical Clinic from the drop down menu and click search. You can easily see a list of all the walk-in medical clinics near you and compare wait times at the walk-in clinics to save time. Over 1200 walk-in medical clinics use Medimap to update their wait times.

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