Barriers to care and timely access are key primary health concerns

13 March 2018

Barriers to service, including timely access to appointments, are negatively affecting New Brunswickers’ experiences with family doctors; ER visits and more according to the New Brunswick Health Council (NBHC). With the release of Being Patient, Accessibility, Primary Health and Emergency Rooms, the first release of results from the 3rd edition of its Primary Health survey, the NBHC has analyzed the experiences of over 14,500 citizens to identify results and trends that the public and health system must address. “Our legislated mandate includes telling New Brunswickers about the quality of their health services, and over 90% of people in the province use these ‘first point of contact’ services,” said Stéphane Robichaud, CEO of the NBHC “With this information, citizens can tell decision-makers what they value and which care decisions are acceptable to them.”

Primary health is defined as the first place people go when they have health concerns, often to a family physician, a nurse practitioner or other health professional. It typically includes routine care, care for urgent but minor or common health problems, mental health care, maternity and child care, liaison with home care, health promotion and disease prevention, nutrition counseling, and end of life care.  The survey looked closely at key elements of primary health services such as accessibility, service usage, satisfaction with services, communication with a doctor, including barriers to health services, among others. 

Among the observations that can be drawn from the survey results:

  • The percentage of citizens who can get an appointment with their family doctor within five days continues to decline provincially, from 60.3% in 2014 to 55.8% in 2017.
  • There is wide variability among NB communities of the percentage of citizens who can get an appointment with their family doctor within five days, from a low of 19.5% to a high of 75.4%.
  • An estimated 47,000 New Brunswickers who have a family doctor use the Emergency Room as their regular place of care.

An Excel file is also being released with Being Patient that contains approximately 200 indicators that were produced from the survey.

“This information must play a key role in future health system decisions,” highlighted Robichaud, “with changes to our population, our finances and our health resources, those responsible for health services will benefit greatly from this information when implementing programs and assigning resources to meet community needs.”

Citizens responded to the survey by telephone between February and June, 2017, in all areas of the province. The large number of respondents means that most communities in the province can access results that identify the community’s specific needs, strengths and areas to improve. Through the year, the NBHC will be publishing additional analyses of survey results, including community risk factors for chronic health conditions and others.

 The NBHC has been established as an independent organization that measures, monitors and evaluates New Brunswick’s health care system performance and population health, and that engages citizens in the improvement of health service quality.

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