When we are new in a country, everything is a little bit hard at the beginning. It 's hard to find out how to deal with the simplest day to day tasks. How does the public transportation system work? How to get a driver’s license? Where to look for a job? What neighborhood is better for me to live? What are the fun things to do here? What should I do if I need to see a doctor? Those questions are easy to answer if you are a local, but common doubts if you are not from town and even harder to find the answer if you are a foreigner to the community. I’m experiencing this situation right now in Prince George. I’ve just arrived from Brazil with a work permit visa and a student husband. As a journalist, I’ve decided to share some information that I found out, and that can be helpful for other foreigners, like a big part of UNBCs students.
Because health must be a priority, let’s start from there:
What to do if you need a doctor for some reason?
The first step when you arrive in British Columbia is to apply for the Medical Service Plan (MSP) provided by the Health Insurance BC. It takes three months after the immigrant arrives in BC to be covered by the health system and receive an insurance card. Until then, it is a good idea to get private insurance, since medical care can be expensive here. It costs around $160 for three months of coverage.
In the city of Prince George, the Immigrant & Multicultural Services Society (www.imss.ca) can help with the applications. The organization has been working in Northern BC for more than 40 years and provides several services for immigrants: such as English classes; knowledge skills and connections related to the work environment; and information about Canadian laws and a citizens rights and responsibilities. “To be served by IMSS is necessary to phone our society to arrange an appointment with our practitioners,” said the IMSS representative.
Students that have a Study Permit can contact the International Department in the university or college for any inquiries. Those that are studying in Canada with a Temporary Resident document are not allowed to require the Medical Service Plan. But if you are here with a work permit, you can apply for that directly by the Health Insurance BC.
Getting the health insurance:
Step 1: Print and fill the application form that can be found on the website: www.health.gov.bc.ca/exforms/msp/102fil.pdf
Step 2: Get copies of the Work or Study Permit, Passport (page with the photo and with the visa)
Step 3: Send all documents by mail to the Health Insurance BC. You can go to any Post Office and ask for a registered letter. That way, you will receive a number and can check whether your documents arrived or not. The address is:
Health Insurance BC, Medical Services Plan,
PO Box 9678 Stn Prov Govt,
It’ll take from 6 to 9 weeks to receive the BC Health Card and the invoice, which can be paid in any bank. The BC Insurance costs around $75 per month.
Finding a family doctor:
When you have your MSP, you’ll need a family physician. To find one that is accepting new patients you can research on the website www.cpsbc.ca. It can be helpful to ask friends for indications or visit some walk-in clinic to know if there are any vacancies for new patients as well.
I hope that this information is helpful and make the beginning of the newcomers’ journey in the city of Prince George a little bit easier.
By Fernanda Salla, Volunteer Journalist with CFUR News