Timely access to primary health care continues to be a challenge

30 November 2021

The ability to see a primary health care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner) in a timely manner has an impact on the use of emergency rooms and after-hours clinics as the usual place of care, according to the article In search of better access to primary care services in New Brunswick published by the New Brunswick Health Council (NBHC).

In the first release of results of the 4th edition of the NBHC’s Primary Health Survey, the council has analyzed the experiences of 13,500 citizens with primary health services.

“The recently released provincial action plan highlighted the need to evolve to team-based care”, says NBHC CEO Stéphane Robichaud. “In consultations earlier this year, primary health providers have expressed that the current model is unsustainable and often fails to effectively meet the needs of patients.”

Primary health is usually defined as the first point of contact with the health care system.  The survey looked closely at key elements pertaining to the delivery, experiences, and quality of primary health services.

The article highlights the following findings:

  • 90% of citizens have a primary care provider (86% family doctor, 4% nurse practitioner), but despite a high attachment rate, only 57% of New Brunswickers with a family doctor reported visiting their family doctor most often when they needed care. 
  • Timely access to family physicians has been on the decline since 2011, with only 1 in 2 citizens being able to see their family doctor in 5 days or less. As a result, more and more citizens are visiting after-hours clinics or an emergency room when they need care. 

The 2020 edition of the NBHC Primary Health Survey contains new indicators on perceived limits to the number of problems that can be discussed in a visit to a primary care provider, heavy drinking and the use of cannabis, types of disabilities reported by persons with a disability, and the percentage of citizens who provide long-term care for someone. The survey also introduces data by sexual orientation.

All results of the Primary Health Survey are now available through a new interactive online tool on the NBHC website. More than 200 indicators are available for the 7 health zones, the 33 health communities, and for various population groups.

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.

NBHC Contact:  Mariane Cullen, 506-869-6709 or mariane.cullen@nbhc.ca