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Winter care

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Winter can be an exciting time of year, but it also comes with an increase in people visiting the emergency department. After another extraordinary year, our health facilities continue to be safe places for patients. For critical, life-threatening conditions, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department. For other non-life-threatening matters, there are a number of options to seek care during the winter season.

It's safe to seek care

Your health and safety remains VCH's top priority. If you require care, seek it right away. Across VCH infection prevention and control standards are in place to protect patients, clients, staff and physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff are prepared and have protocols in place to ensure patients and clients receive the care they need. It is safe to seek care. If you need care, don't delay.

Know where to go for the right care

During the busy winter season, there are options for care.

For major injuries, trouble breathing, symptoms of stroke or heart attack, loss of consciousness, severe bleeding, and more, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department. Request that a copy of your medical reports be sent to your family doctor or nurse practitioner.


If your condition is not life-threatening, call your family doctor or care provider first. Same-day urgent in-person or virtual appointments are often available. Visit, for primary care (day-to-day health care) options in your community.


For Urgent and Primary Care Centre locations and hours check out Urgent and Primary Care Centres. Check for UPCC and walk-in clinic wait times. Many walk-in clinics are open for extended hours.

For an urgent medication refill speak with your pharmacist. They can often provide short-term refills and other advice. Your family doctor may also be able to schedule a virtual appointment to refill prescriptions.‎


COVID-19 testing is available for those who need it but not everyone requires a test.  The BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool can help determine if further assessment or testing for COVID-19 is needed.

Visit VCH COVID-19 testing for locations and hours.‎


Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter season. Remember that you must sign up with the provincial COVID-19 registration system to be invited to get your vaccination and booster shot. Visit the Government of BC website to register.  

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine on our vaccine page.

This year, it is more important than ever to get a flu vaccine and stay out of the hospital. Find out where you can get a flu shot here:


Contact HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1, which is available 24/7 in multiple languages, or visit the HealthLink BC website at


Tips to stay safe and healthy this winter

Avoid slips and falls

Another way to avoid the emergency department is to prevent slips and falls. Everyone is at risk for falls, especially during inclement winter weather when sidewalks can be icy. We have a number of resources, including a brochure and a home activity program to help you understand and avoid falls.

For seniors and those with elderly family members, it is important to note that many falls are preventable. There are a number of proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk of experiencing a fall:

  • These include improving your mobility and balance; increasing your physical activity and muscle strength and following the Canadian guidelines for calcium and vitamin D consumption.

  • Keep your body active:

    • Strength, balance and flexibility exercises, such as lifting light weights, stair climbing, yoga, and tai chi.

    • Exercises that promote endurance, such as walking and dancing.

  • You should also organize regular vision check-ups and correct vision problems; review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist; and reduce trip and slip hazards in your home or outdoors.

  • The British Columbia Falls & Injury Prevention Coalition offers information and resources to help prevent falls through its Finding Balance website.

Consider the following safety tips from the Canada Safety Council for safe winter walking:

  • Plan ahead so you have enough time to get where you're going.

  • Walk on cleared walkways if there is ice and snow on the ground.

  • Use boots or shoes that fit well and have a thick, non-slip tread sole.

  • Use a cane, ski poles or walking sticks to help with balance. If using a cane, attach a retractable ice pick to the end.

Winter sports and recreation

Staying active is an important way to stay healthy and can help you avoid serious injury over the long term.  During the winter, many people will turn to various winter sports and outdoor recreational activities. Active & Safe Central provides injury prevention and safety information and resources for skiingsnowboardingsnowshoeinghockeyringette and 45 other sports and recreational activities.

Winter road safety

Leave lots of time to get to your destination so you are not rushing and remember to take weather and road conditions into account.

Be mindful of driver fatigue, especially when driving long distances after a heavy meal. Driver fatigue slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment, and increases your risk of crashing.


Winter care poster 

English | Chinese Simplified (简体中文) and Traditional (繁體中文) | Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ) Arabic  (العربية Korean (한국어) Tagalog Spanish (Español) Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt) Farsi (فارسی ) Japanese 日本語 Russian (русский)

Winter care postcard 

English | Chinese Simplified (简体中文) and Traditional (繁體中文) | Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ) Arabic  (العربية) | Korean  (한국어) Tagalog Spanish (Español) Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt) Farsi (فارسی ) Japanese 日本語 Russian русский

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