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International Patients

The International Patient Program (IPP) helps children living outside of Canada who require access to specialized paediatric care not available in their home region/region of residence. IPP supports these children in accessing SickKids' world-class clinical care and expert teams. 

As the first point of contact for international inquiries and referrals to SickKids, IPP assists with over 1,000 inquiries and facilitates over 100 new patient referrals each year. 

The IPP team facilitates communication and ensures that the SickKids expert teams have the necessary information to plan for their consultation and/or treatment. The IPP office facilitates the entire process from the referral to discharge and return to home country/country of residence. 

Who we are

The program coordinator is the first point of contact for inquiries about the IPP referral process. Together with members of the team, the program coordinator facilitates communication about patients’ referral status, ongoing progress and next steps. The program coordinator supports our goal to ensure a smooth and positive experience for the patient and family. 

Each international patient at SickKids has a dedicated international case coordinator. The international case coordinator has a clinical background and works with clinical teams throughout the intake process and plan of care. The international case coordinator is the key contact person for the patient/family, health-care provider abroad, and SickKids clinical teams for all aspects of the international patient/family journey, including follow-up care and any necessary unplanned care required at SickKids. 

In recognition of the unique needs of international patients and families, the senior manager works closely with the medical and hospital leadership to deliver high-quality care and a positive patient and family experience. The senior manager supports the team with the review and management of complex cases and ensures that the entire system functions with a focus on the patient and family's best interests. 

The surgical director works closely with the senior manager to support high-quality service delivery for international patients and families. In particular, the surgical director supports the review of complex medical and surgical cases and assists in directing new referrals to the appropriate medical team. The surgical director assists physician partners abroad by providing expert advice to ensure a smooth transition during the intake and repatriation of the patient to their home country. 

The medical director works closely with the senior manager to achieve high-quality service delivery for international patients and families. In particular, the medical director supports the review of complex medical cases and assists in directing new referrals to the appropriate medical team, specifically admissions requiring intensive care. As a critical player in acute care transport, the medical director assists physician partners abroad with medical transport issues and provides expert advice to ensure a smooth transition during the intake and repatriation of the patient to their home country. 

The director provides oversight to the International Patient Program and manages executive level partnerships across SickKids. The director works closely with the senior manager to lead the direction of strategic priorities and ensure that the entire system functions with a focus on the patient and family's best interests. 

What we do

All children deserve access to specialized health care, regardless of their place of origin or geographic location. However, many countries do not have the level of care available at SickKids due to economic circumstances or insufficient capacity to provide specialized treatment. 

While the priority at SickKids is meeting the needs of children in Ontario, we acknowledge that there is a moral responsibility to provide care to critically ill children from abroad. Based on key principles, our screening process allows SickKids to offer care to international children in need. 

Our principles

  1. As a referral hospital in Ontario, SickKids' priority is the treatment of children in Ontario requiring emergent, urgent, and critical care.  
  2. No child in Ontario will have treatment denied or deferred in favour of an international child. The IPP focuses on SickKids' clinical areas/programs with the internal capacity to accept international patients. 
  3. International patients must meet specific eligibility criteria for treatment at SickKids based on regulatory guidelines set by the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). All international patients must be approved by the Surgeon-in-Chief and/or the Paediatrician-in-Chief to ensure compliance. 
  4. Applicants up to 17 years of age may be considered, provided the proposed treatment is completed by their 18th birthday. 
  5. SickKids will use technology along with the SickKids team's unique capabilities to provide cost-effective and efficient clinical care and expert advice for our international patients and families. 
  6. All revenue from international patient activity will be directed back to the hospital to cover the cost of treatment and to support program development/capacity growth for Ontario patients. International patients are not eligible for funding through the Ontario Ministry of Health and require coverage in full prior to receiving treatment. 

Our services

Through the IPP, SickKids will accept referrals for children from around the world. International patients and families can access SickKids expertise in: medical and/or surgical care; medical second opinion; and/or telehealth consultation. 

SickKids is one of the world's largest and most respected paediatric academic health sciences centres, offering comprehensive services across a wide range of clinical specialties. More than 50 different specialty services and 70 areas of specialized surgical procedures (PDF) are offered at SickKids. Please keep in mind that although SickKids may have a specialty you are seeking, eligibility criteria for international patients always apply. 

SickKids can offer a medical second opinion to support physicians abroad in validating diagnostic findings, pathology or radiologic studies outcomes, and/or advising on treatment options and plans based on diagnostic findings. Please note: 

  • If you request a medical second opinion on diagnostic imaging findings, a copy of the images must be sent to SickKids, either electronically as a DiCom file or as a CD. 
  • If you request a medical second opinion on findings from pathology, all original pathology slides and reports, block or 10 unstained slides from a representative block, must be sent to SickKids. 

SickKids can offer medical and surgical consultations via videoconference, which allows for direct face-to-face discussion between SickKids clinical experts and the requesting medical team abroad, these may also include the patient and family when appropriate. This consultation may include review and consultation on complex, rare cases or cases that have failed the first course of treatment. 

Telehealth consultation can include: 

  • Medical/surgical consultation; 
  • Pre-screening patients before their travel to SickKids for treatment; 
  • Web follow-up clinic appointments after treatment at SickKids; 
  • Teleradiology review. 

Eligibility criteria

The guidelines for acceptance of non-Canadian residents for treatment at SickKids are very strict, and are set out by the Government of Ontario's Ministry of Health and the Canadian Medical Protective Association.  

Please review each of the sections below. 

Your child is defined as an International Patient, if they are less than 18 years of age and is a: 

  • Non-Canadian citizen who is visiting or temporarily residing in Canada and will return to their country of origin, or 
  • Canadian citizen residing permanently abroad visiting Canada and will return to their country of permanent residence 

Criteria for acceptance for treatment at SickKids includes all of the following: 

  • The child is under the age of 17, and treatment will be completed by their 18th birthday. 
  • The child has complex treatment/surgical needs. 
  • Treatment is not emergent or urgent. 
  • The required specialized treatment is not available in the child's home country or region. 
  • There is capacity within the requested SickKids program to accept an international patient, without negatively impacting access to the program for children from Ontario and Canada. 
  • There are medical services available in the child's home country to provide follow-up care once the child returns home. 

SickKids cannot accept the following: 

  • Children requiring emergent or urgent care; 
  • Children with highly complex multi-condition medical diagnoses who require long-term, ongoing care or rehabilitation; or  
  • Children with treatment available in their home country or region at a comparable level of care provided by SickKids. 

Referral and intake process

International patients who meet the eligibility criteria [link to anchor] may be referred for care at SickKids. A IPP Referral Form (PDF) must be submitted in order to begin the referral process, which includes:  

  • Parent/legal guardian section to be completed and signed (Pages 1 to 3) 
  • Physician referral completed and signed (Pages 4 to 5) including: 
  • A complete medical history and current condition 
  • Medical notes (completed within the last 6 months) 
  • Recent laboratory, test results, and imaging  

All information must be submitted in English, translated by a medical translator. Referrals with documents in another language will not be reviewed by the SickKids team. Please send the referral to the International Patient Program.

Download referral form (PDF)

Once we have received the completed referral form and all relevant medical information, your child's application will be reviewed by the appropriate SickKids medical experts. During this process, the medical team may ask you/your child's doctor to provide additional information to determine your child's eligibility. All requested information must be received in order to proceed. 

Once the SickKids medical team has reviewed all the documents and test results provided, our Program Coordinator will inform you of the decision:  

  • If SickKids can provide the services requested, the referral will be accepted. We will send you a letter with the proposed treatment plan with an estimate of the associated costs. 
  • If SickKids is unable to provide the services requested, the referral will be declined. When possible, we will provide a list of alternative paediatric centres and/or consultant doctors closer to your child's residence that may be available to provide the services requested. 

We require full financial coverage of the proposed treatment plan before any service at SickKids can be scheduled. You can arrange direct payment in full by cheque, bank transfer, or online via credit card. Your insurance company, embassy, or government can also provide financial coverage for the full amount of the proposed services via a Letter of Guarantee.  

If you are requesting humanitarian financial support for your child through the SickKids Herbie Fund, additional financial review and approval from the Herbie Medical Review Committee will be required.

Upon receiving financial coverage, we will send the you a notification of acceptance. This is when you can start making travel arrangements for you and your child. You may also receive specific instructions from the clinical program. 

We will provide appointment dates, times and locations, in addition to other important information in preparation for your child's travel. Your international case coordinator will also arrange to meet with you prior to your child's first medical appointment at SickKids. 

Please note: In the event that there are unexpected complications and/or additional medically necessary care is required while your child is at SickKids, there will be additional costs which will be provided in the final invoice. Medically necessary care will be communicated to your insurance provider, or foreign government/embassy, with a request for guarantee of payment. 

You should only make travel arrangements after we have confirmed receipt of your payment or payment guarantee. 

It is important that you know which travel documents are needed for you and your family to enter Canada: 

Visa

Information on the visa application process can be found at the . It is important that you know the  at the Canadian embassy in the country where you live. 

Our office can provide you with a letter to support the visa application for your child and one accompanying parent/legal guardian. The letter will indicate:  

  • The reason for travel - your child will be receiving treatment atSickKids; 
  • The estimated cost of the treatment and that payment has been made orguaranteed;  
  • and the estimated length of stay for the treatment at SickKids.

Electronic Travel Authorization

Travelers from abroad who do not require a visa will need an , with the exception of U.S. citizens and those who have a valid visitor visa to Canada. Those who require an eTA must obtain it prior to traveling in order to be permitted to board their flight. 

Please note: We cannot apply for a visitor visa or eTA on behalf of you or your child. However, if you require assistance you may contact us to guide you through this process. 

The Herbie Fund

Humanitarian support

Some families may not have the financial means (e.g. private health insurance, ability to self-pay, or financial support from their government or embassy) to pay for treatment at SickKids. The Herbie Fund is a unique humanitarian fund at SickKids that provides eligible referrals with financial support for surgical care at SickKids. 

Please note that the Herbie Fund does not provide financial support for any non-medical costs, such as airfare or accommodations while in Toronto. 

The story of Herbie

In 1978, Herbie Quinones of Brooklyn, New York, was born with a rare birth defect that made it difficult for him to breathe. Every time he swallowed became a life-threatening situation. He needed an operation that was developed by Dr. Robert Filler at SickKids, but his family could not afford the cost of the trip or the surgery. 

After reading about Herbie in the local newspapers, Paul and Gina Godfrey led an effort in which the people of Toronto generously donated money to cover Herbie's hospital costs. Dr. Filler offered to perform the surgery without a fee. In February 1979, Herbie came to Toronto for this lifesaving operation, returning to Brooklyn a much happier and healthier little boy. After all of Herbie's medical expenses had been paid, the account that had been opened to cover the costs of his care had $17,000 remaining. 

The Godfreys then decided to establish The Herbie Fund at SickKids, to be used to help other children, like Herbie Quinones, to receive necessary surgery at SickKids. Over the ensuing decades since its founding, the Herbie Fund has supported medical treatment for hundreds of children from disadvantaged parts of the world, who might never have had the chance to receive the treatment they required to live a healthy and happy life. 

The Herbie Fund eligibility criteria

The Herbie fund is supported by donations from corporate sponsors, agencies and communities in and around the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, SickKids doctors waive their fees so that every dollar donated goes directly toward supporting treatments that help international children in need. 

Click to expand the section below to view eligibility criteria for Herbie Fund assistance. 

  • Patients must be less than 17 years old at time of application; 
  • Treatment must be completed before the patient's 18th birthday; 
  • Surgical treatment and care will be carried out only at SickKids in Toronto; 
  • The required surgery or procedure is not available in the patient's country of residence, or the required treatment can more effectively be carried out at SickKids by SickKids experts; 
  • Requested treatment is a one-time surgical treatment only, or a sequential series of surgical treatments that will be completed within an 8-week period; 
  • The Herbie Medical Review Committee must determine if the treatment required will be life-altering and have a lasting impact for the child undergoing the procedure; 
  • A responsible doctor in the applicant's place of residence must be identified and secured, to provide post-operative and follow-up care once the child is discharged from SickKids; 
  • A Canadian host must be available and willing to accommodate the family; 
  • The applicant and his or her family must return to their home country once discharged from SickKids. 

Conditions and services that are not eligible for Herbie Fund assistance: 

  • Consultations/assessments/medical second opinions 
  • Kidney dialysis 
  • Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation 
  • Solid organ transplantation (including heart, lung, kidney, etc.) 
  • Chronic and/or long-term rehabilitation 
  • Developmental delay 
  • Cerebral palsy management 

Frequently asked questions

The eligibility criteria outline who is considered an international patient at SickKids.  

Your child is not an international patient if they are 18 years of age or older, OR is a:

  • Non-Canadian person permanently living in Ontario. 
  • Non-Canadian who cannot provide proof of landed immigrant status. Please note you must be able to provide government documentation regarding application for landed status, refugee status to receive care at the hospital. 
  • Person who states they will permanently reside in Canada, or will re-establish residency in Canada, and will not return to their current country of residence after treatment is completed. Valid documentation regarding proof of their landed immigrant status/citizenship is required. 
  • Person who has applied for landed immigrant status after arriving in Canada. This can be determined with valid documentation of landed immigrant status. 
  • Refugee claimant awaiting Interim Federal Health Plan coverage (IFHP). You must provide a copy of your completed IFHP application to receive care. 

The eligibility criteria outline who is considered an international patient at SickKids. Once we receive the completed referral form and all supporting medical documentation, the appropriate SickKids medical experts will review the application to determine whether SickKids can provide the care requested. 

If you have questions about whether you child is eligible for treatment at SickKids, please complete the referral form. Alternatively, you may contact us. Prior to contacting us with your questions, please have some basic information ready including the child’s name, date of birth, diagnosis, country of residence and citizenship, payment method and also identify the treatment you are requesting. 

Download referral form (PDF)

In order to apply for assessment and treatment at SickKids, you and your child's home doctor must complete a referral form in full and in English. Parents/guardians must complete pages 1 to 3, and your child's referring doctor must complete pages 4 and 5. Depending on your child's condition, we may ask you/your child's doctor for additional information. 

Download referral form (PDF)

No. Completion of the referral form is the first step in the process. Please review the full intake process. 

Once we receive your application completed in full and in English, we aim to have your application reviewed within 5 to 10 Canadian business days. Each application is individually reviewed by the appropriate SickKids medical experts, and therefore the time frame may vary if multiple SickKids doctors are involved. We will be in contact with you with a decision once your application has been reviewed by the medical team. 

If your referral form is not completed in full and in English, or is missing supporting medical documentation, we will notify you or your child's referring doctor to request any missing information. Incomplete forms will not be processed until all required information is received, which in turn will delay your application being reviewed by the appropriate SickKids medical team. 

Please see detailed information about making financial arrangements to learn more about cost estimates and making payments. 

When an international patient referral comes through the IPP office, we must gather information on a large number of medical and non-medical factors, one of which is the potential means of payment. 

International patients, including Canadian citizens who have been abroad for more than 181 days and are not planning to permanently live in Ontario following treatment at SickKids, are not eligible for health care coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP). Therefore, we must validate the potential means of payment for assessment/treatment as part of our due diligence. 

For international patients who have medical insurance to cover the costs of treatment, we require the following information prior to admitting a patient: the name of the insurance company, the policy number, the amount of the policy coverage, and a letter or guarantee of payment from the insurance company. 

For families who have indicated that they will self-pay to cover treatment, we must understand the source of the funding, which usually means understanding parent income and number of dependents. We will respect your privacy and will use this information as part of the review process to ensure that the cost of treatment at SickKids will not negatively impact the long-term financial stability of the family as a whole, due to the financial burden that may be incurred as a result of the cost of treatment at SickKids. In addition, self-pay requires a full pre-payment of the treatment/assessment costs to SickKids before any treatment is scheduled and the patient is able to be admitted. 

Please note that any financial information gathered is held in the strictest confidence within our International Patient Program office. 

There are many hotels and furnished apartments located within walking distance to SickKids. Please refer to the Information for International Patients and Families Visiting SickKids for more details. Please note that we will not book accommodations on behalf of patients and families. 

Yes, valid travel health insurance for both the patient and accompanying family members is required by Immigration Canada in order to enter Canada. You may be asked by Immigration Canada officials for verification of travel health insurance when you arrive in Canada. Failure to produce evidence of travel health insurance may prevent your entry into Canada. 

Toronto Pearson International Airport services the Greater Toronto Area. Most major international airlines have service there, often on a daily basis. We cannot make airline bookings on behalf of international patients, so speak with your travel agent to determine the best route for your travel to Toronto. 

There are many fun and interesting things to see and do in the city, including art galleries, museums, concerts, Harbourfront (along Lake Ontario), the CN tower, the Science Centre, Toronto Zoo and great restaurants. Below are several links to attractions, tours in and around Toronto. 

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You can also refer to the Information for International Patients and Families Visiting SickKids booklet for more resources to help you prepare for your visit to SickKids.

Our history

Founded in 1997, the International Patient Program (IPP) was established in response to increased requests from international families and health care providers seeking access to the world-class specialized medical services provided at SickKids. 

Over the years, the IPP has helped hundreds of children around the world receive specialized clinical care by acting as the liaison between the family and health care provider abroad with the SickKids clinical programs. 

contact-email-icon-small.png Contact us

We can serve you better if you can provide the following information when you contact us: 

  • Child’s name 
  • Date of birth 
  • Diagnosis 
  • Country of residence and citizenship 
  • Parent/legal guardian’s name and contact information 
  • Payment method 
  • Service or treatment you are requesting at SickKids 

The International Patient Program office is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST. We will respond to your inquiry within two Canadian business days. 

Phone: +1-416-813-7654 ext. 228917 
Fax: +1-416-813-8667 
Email: international.patientprogram@sickkids.ca

Please note that email may be intercepted between the sender and the receiver and is therefore neither secure nor confidential. Your continued use of email communication confirms that you accept this risk. 

Mailing address

International Patient Program 
The Hospital for Sick Children 
555 University Avenue 
Toronto, Ontario
Canada 
M5G 1X8