Do we need a pediatrician?

Pediatricians are primary care doctors who specialize in children's health, including physical, mental, and social health.

In Ontario, it’s common for a family doctor, also called a general practitioner (GP), to be the primary care provider for whole families. If your child is generally in good health they may not need a pediatrician right away.

Primary care of children often includes well-baby and well-child visits (also called check-ups), vaccinations, and care of common illnesses including colds, fevers, earaches, rashes, and other common childhood conditions. A family doctor is usually able to diagnose and treat most medical concerns; if something goes beyond their ability, they will refer you to a specialist. 

How do we find a pediatrician?

There is a shortage of family doctors in some areas of Ontario. It may take you some time to find a doctor, and pediatricians in smaller areas may only be accepting patients that have more complex health needs or practice “consulting care”. They see patients who were referred to them by family doctors for help to diagnose and treat more complex issues.

If you live in a bigger city it may still be possible to find a pediatrician that is accepting new patients. It is a good idea to keep in mind that older children will need their own family doctor by the time they turn 18 years old. Here are a few ways you can look for one:

  • Ask your own family doctor if they have a pediatrician in their network.
  • Ask a friend or family member if their pediatrician is accepting new patients.
  • Register with Health Care Connect. This program refers you to a local doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients. You need to have OHIP to use this service and must not be currently registered with an Ontario family health care provider. It is run by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. You can register with this program by filling out an online form or by calling 1-800-445-1822 (TTY 1-866-797-0007).
  • Use the Doctor Search found on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario website. This search is helpful for finding doctors that speak your language or have a specialization you may need.

What if my child needs a specialist?

A common practice for family doctors is to refer your child to a pediatrician for “consulting care”. Consulting Pediatricians see children, in consultation, for a variety of general health concerns. They collaborate with other pediatric sub-specialists to coordinate comprehensive care for children with specialized needs. 

Within reason, you are always welcome to ask your health care provider to refer your child to a specialist. You can also ask for a second opinion if you feel uncomfortable with the first referral.

You may also be able to access a pediatric urgent care clinic or emergency room if your region has a children’s hospital.

For More Information

  • Doctor Search - An online database that allows you to search for a doctor in your area who speaks your language or who specializes in an area of medicine. It is run by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario.
  • Health Care Connect - This program refers you to a local family health care provider that is accepting new patients. You need to have OHIP to use this service. It is run by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
  • Caring for Kids - Provides parents with information about their child’s and teen’s health and well-being. The site was developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society.
  • Medical Specialties - Learn about the specialties doctors practise in Ontario from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).
Last updated: February 20, 2024 4006523