Provincial Differences in Healthcare – Health Hint!

Jun 22, 2022

Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness.  We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities, so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life.  Check out our latest Health Hint on the difference sin provincial health care systems.  We hope you find it helpful.  If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario, please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.  

In Canada, the healthcare delivery system is organized in different areas, which include: 

  • Primary care 
  • Outpatient specialist care 
  • After-hours care 
  • Hospitals
  • Mental-health care 
  • Long-term care and social supports

There exists provincial variability among these different areas of healthcare delivery and access in Canada.


Variability among different areas of healthcare delivery in Canada

Primary Care 

Primary care consists of family physicians, general practitioners, and specialists. General practitioners (GPs) are crucial to Canada’s healthcare as they act as gatekeepers and networks of GPs work together and share resources. However, there are variations across provinces in the composition and size of teams. 

Primary care also consists of nurses; many nurses work in hospitals and a fewer percentage of nurses work in community health settings. In the three northern territories (Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut), primary care is often nurse-led. 

Outpatient specialist care 

The majority of specialist care is provided in hospitals, although there is a trend toward providing less complicated services in non-hospital diagnostic or surgical facilities. Specialists are paid mostly on a fee-for-service basis, although there is variation across provinces. 

Mental Health Care 

Physician-provided mental health care is covered under Canadian Medicare, in addition to a fragmented system of allied services. Mental health has not been formally integrated into primary care. However, some organizations have launched efforts to coordinate or connect mental health services with primary care. 

Long-term care and social supports

All provinces provide some residential care and some combination of case management and nursing care for home care clients, but there is considerable variation when it comes to other services, including medical equipment, supplies, and home support. 

Also, support for informal caregivers (estimated to provide 66% to 84% of care to seniors) varies by province and territory (The Commonwealth Fund). 

Discussing provincial access to healthcare in Canada is a high-priority and imperative topic as equal access is a major objective of the Canadian health system. However, there continues to be differences in various areas such as healthcare financing, payment mechanisms, benefit packages and supply of health services which lead to different degrees of inequity in access to healthcare (Allin, 2008). 

We hope you enjoyed our latest Health Hint!

Written by Angelika Aziz

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  1. Tikkanen, R., Osborn, R., Mossialos, E., Djordjevic, A., & Wharton G.A. “International Health Care System Profiles: Canada.” The Commonwealth Fund, 5 June 2020, Accessed 15 May 2022. 
  2. Allin, S. “Does Equity in Healthcare Use Vary Across Canadian Provinces?” Healthcare Policy, vol. 3, no. 4, May 2008, pp. 83-99. DOI:
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