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Winter care


Winter is a fun time of year, but it also comes with an increase in people visiting the emergency department. In this 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

Staff are prepared and have protocols in place to ensure any patient that comes to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms poses a limited risk to others. 

These guidelines are in place as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of patients, staff and physicians.

If you have a scheduled appointment, diagnostic tests, medical procedure or day-to-day health care needs it's safe to access our services.

Across Vancouver Coastal Health, our infection prevention and control standards are in place to protect our patients, clients, staff and physicians. 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 and seek care right away.

Choose the right care at the right place

This winter season, know your health care options.

If you have a critical or life-threatening condition

For major injuries, trouble breathing, symptoms of stroke or heart attack, loss of consciousness, severe bleeding, and more, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. Request that a copy of your medical reports be sent to your family doctor.

Do you have a general health concern?

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.

What if your family doctor is not available?

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.

What if I need my prescription refilled and my doctor's office is closed?

For an urgent medication refill speak with your pharmacist who may be able to provide an emergency refill of your prescription, including medications for chronic conditions.

How can I access mental health and substance use services?

Visit the accessing mental health and substance use services page for more information.

Do you need to be tested for COVID-19?

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

Visit VCH COVID-19 testing for locations and hours.

What if you're just seeking health advice?

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.

On average, every 10 minutes a senior is hospitalized because of a fall.  Falls are especially devastating among older adults, causing over 90 percent of hip fractures and 60 percent of head injuries. 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 skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hockey, ringette 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.


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