Access to Primary Care in New Brunswick


June 18, 2024

Primary care, usually the first point of entry with the health care system, is a sector facing many challenges globally in terms of accessibility, continuity, and coordination of services. These components are key to ensuring better health outcomes.

This is particularly evident in Canada as well as in New Brunswick, where ensuring access to primary care stands as a key governmental priority. These priorities also resonate among stakeholders, media, and the public, underscoring the pressing need for concerted action and initiatives in this sector.

Across the province, there are many initiatives that promote team-based care models and aim to provide better integrated services. This approach is seen as a key solution to improve access to services, ensure continuity of care, and enhance coordination of services.

The Current Landscape of Primary Care

According to the 2023 Commonwealth Fund results, Canada ranks poorly in terms of access to primary care compared to peer countries.

In a landscape where most countries face challenges when it comes to primary care access, Canada's position ranks worst among 10 high-income countries.  Nationally, the percentage of citizens who have a regular doctor or place of care is lower in Canada (86%) compared to the Commonwealth Fund average (93%).1



Even when citizens have a permanent primary care provider, they face challenges in being able to get timely appointments. The percentage of citizens who can see their provider within the same day or the next day is also lower in Canada compared to similar Commonwealth Fund countries.



According to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the rate of family doctors per 10,000 population in New Brunswick was among the highest in Canada until 2020. However, following a growth in population since the early 2020s, this is no longer the case. In 2022, the rate of family doctors was similar to the national average, at less than 13 doctors per 10,000 population.2


Commonwealth Fund Countries include:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Insights from the 2023 NBHC Primary Care Survey

The 2023 edition of the Primary Care Survey was conducted from October 2023 to January 2024. This edition was completed by 5010 New Brunswickers aged 18 and over.  The results of this survey are aligned with the international findings and add some local perspective.

Within New Brunswick, the percentage of citizens who have a permanent primary care provider is continuing to decline:

  • Over time, there has been a decline in the percentage of citizens who reported having a permanent primary care provider, going from 93% in 2017 to 79% in 2023 . This edition, the decrease was most pronounced in Zones 1, 3 and 4.
  • A wide variability exists across the province, with the percentages of citizens who reported having a permanent primary care provider ranging from 64% in Zone 4 to 95% in Zone 7.  


The percentage of New Brunswickers who were able to see their primary care provider within five days has not improved compared to 2022. 

  • After a decline in timely access in 2022 compared to 2020, the percentage of citizens who were able to see their family doctor within 5 days when they needed medical care has remained stable for most zones in 2023, at around 32%.
  • Zone 7, however, experienced a large decrease in timely access with their primary care provider in 2023, going from exceeding the provincial average in 2022 (45%) to aligning with it this year (30%). 
  • This year, a large percentage of citizens who have a permanent primary care provider reported using other services because their provider was not available (69%), contributing to fragmented primary care utilization and implications for continuity of care.




Access to primary care remains a key challenge in New Brunswick. Moreover, the percentage of citizens who have a permanent primary care provider continues to decline. When it comes to timely access, the province, along with Canada in general, are trailing behind other high-income countries.

Citizens are using other services because they are not able to see their provider in a timely manner, which can negatively impact continuity of care.

The New Brunswick Health Council will be conducting its annual survey on primary care to provide some of the necessary data to provide information to the public on the realities on the ground.


1 Canadian Institute for Health Information. International survey shows Canada lags behind peer countries in access to primary health care. Accessed May 24, 2024.

2 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Scott’s Medical Database metadata. Accessed May 17, 2024