Healthcare and Emergency Info for Vancouver Newcomers

Here is a list of important health and safety information you should know as a newcomer to Vancouver. Information regarding healthcare providers, emergencies, and safety contact numbers should always be saved in your contact list as well as your memory. We explained how to find a healthcare provider, set up your health insurance (MSP), access emergency care, find affordable dental services, and contact appropriate GEC extensions for services.

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Healthcare Coverage

Must-Read for Newcomers

It is mandatory for international students and Vancouver newcomers to have a medical insurance plan prior to their arrival in BC. We recommend beginning to use your coverage on the day of your flight. You can sign up for private or public insurance for the length of your stay, but you will likely want to make a private travel insurance arrangement for your arrival. In addition, we recommend bringing previous medical prescriptions and documents you may need in the future.

Typically, students purchase private insurance to use for a month or so and they arrange public insurance (MSP) while they are in British Columbia. International students with a valid study permit for a period of six months or more are required to register for the MSP.

How to join MSP as an international student:

Doctor’s visits are expensive if you do not have medical insurance; one visit without insurance typically starts from $100+. Please enroll in an insurance service for yourself as soon as possible for your own medical safety.

If you have any health-related questions, you can call 8-1-1. For emergencies, please call 9-1-1.

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Emergency Care

As per Vancouver Coastal Health’s online publication, call 9-1-1 or go immediately to your nearest hospital emergency department (ED) if you or someone you love requires immediate medical attention for illness, injury, or overdose, such as:

  • Involved in a major accident
  • At risk of seriously harming themselves or others – you can also access crisis intervention and suicide prevention services
  • Trouble breathing, or catching your breath
  • Severe abdominal or chest pain/pressure
  • Weakness or tingling on one side of your body
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Heavy bleeding

When possible, bring your photo ID, BC Services Card or Care Card.

Check wait times here to ensure you do not wait for long periods before receiving healthcare:

If you are not in an emergency health situation, please avoid going to the ED and visit an Urgent Care Centre or Walk-in Clinic instead.

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Walk-in Clinics

Walk-in Clinics are available to anyone, no appointments are necessary. You will need to bring your ID and healthcare card (or private insurance paperwork). Walk-in clinics operate by first come first serve basis. As a result, it is best if you go during the opening hours to secure your time with a physician.

Walk-in Clinics Nearby GEC Viva

Coast Medical Clinic – 1018 Seymour St

Care Point Medical Clinic – 1123 Davie St

Seymour Medical Clinic – 1290 Hornby St

Walk-in Clinics Nearby GEC Pearson and Marine Gateway

Vancouver Walk-In Clinic – 350 SE Marine Dr

Main & Marine Medical Clinic – 235 SE Marine Dr

Pacific Medical Clinic – 6184 Fraser St

Walk-in Clinics Nearby GEC Burnaby Heights

WELL Health – Hastings Sunrise Medical Clinic – 2280 E Hastings St

MyMD Medical Clinic – 3300 Boundary Rd

Old Orchard Medical Clinic – 4429 Kingsway

*Make sure to bring your medical insurance card and documents like claim forms (if applicable) as well as a photo ID to your appointments.


  • Walk-in clinics usually have a quota, meaning their doctors can only see a certain amount of people (e.g., 50 people per day). This means that they may stop accepting clients at any time during the day depending on the busyness of the clinic on that day. Go to the clinic during the opening hours to ensure a spot.
  • Check out Skip the Waiting Room App to find out about the clinic hours
  • Call the clinic ahead of time to ask about wait times, so you can avoid waiting for a long period of time.
By Tara Winstead

Dental Coverage

Basic health services are covered via an MSP enrollment. However, if you’d like to receive dental services, MSP does not cover dental fees.

MSP covers dental fees only if you:

  • are eligible for the General Health Supplement Program
  • receive disability assistance
  • qualify as a person with persistent multiple barriers

(Read more)

If you’d like to go for regular dental checks, this costs approximately $200-300 in Vancouver.

You may be able to find reduced rates through Low-Cost Dental Care Clinics:

To receive dental care with government coverage (MSP), you are required to show your status card, Personal Health Identification (PHN), unique client identifier (ICU#, if applicable), and/or parole ID.

To receive dental care with private insurance, an Insurance ID is required.

By Polina Tankilevitch


If your doctor prescribes a medicine, you can pick it up at any pharmacy by showing your prescription and photo ID. Depending on your coverage, you may need to pay for your prescription. Moreover, Non-prescription medicine (medicine that does not need to be written by your doctor), can be picked up at any grocery, drug store, or pharmacy.

GEC Viva Students

Contact Numbers

GEC Contact List

Reservations: 604 669 6686 |

GEC Viva

GEC Office: 604 669 6686 |

Appointment with a Reservations Agent:

Security: (778) 682-1311

GEC Pearson & Marine Gateway

Pearson Caretaker: Bobby, 604 376 1180 |

Marine Gateway Caretaker: 604 349 8896 |

GEC Burnaby Heights

Burnaby Caretaker: Sarah |

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Important Contact Numbers

Emergency Line: 911 for emergencies (police, fire, or medical) where an immediate response is needed. This includes lives in danger or a crime in progress.


Vancouver Police Department (Non-Emergency Line): 604-717-3321

Burnaby RCMP (Non-Emergency Line): 604-646-9999

Richmond RCMP (Non-Emergency Line): 604-278-1212


HealthLink BC (Non-Emergency Line): 811

Vancouver Coastal Health: 604 874 7307

Crisis Centre BC (Mental Health): 604 872 3311

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter: 604 872 8212

Hospitals with Emergency Departments

St. Paul’s Hospital 1081 Burrard Street | Tel: 604 682 2344

Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) 920 West 10th Avenue | Tel: 604 875 4111

BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre 4500 Oak Street | Tel: 604 875 2424

BC Children’s Hospital 4480 Oak Street | Tel: 604 875 2000

By Jason Yeh

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