New Brunswick

New Brunswickers asked to weigh in on primary health services in their area

The New Brunswick Health Council is calling on citizens to express their thoughts on health-care services in its Primary Health Survey.

The New Brunswick Health Council is conducting a telephone survey, allowing residents to share concerns

A primary health survey has is designed to help the New Brunswick Health Council better understand the health-care needs of residents in communities across the province. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

The New Brunswick Health Council is calling on residents to express their thoughts on health-care services in its Primary Health Survey. 

In a telephone survey, thousands of residents will be asked about their experience involving primary health care, which is known as the first point of contact with the health-care system. This can include visits to emergency rooms, family doctors, nurse practitioners, ambulance services, after hours clinics 

"There's very valuable information that could be brought back to the communities in helping people understand how our health services have evolved and how our health is evolving, are going in different directions," said Stéphane Robichaud, CEO of the New Brunswick Health Council.

"So changes are required."

The council is an independent organization that measures, monitors and evaluates New Brunswick's health-care system. 

Survey identifies improvements 

Residents will also be asked about their use and access to primary health services and about their general health and wellness.

Robichaud said the survey will help the council evaluate the quality of primary health services provided to New Brunswick. Results from the survey will then be shared in a public report that will identify what's being done and what could be improved. 

That report will be released in 2021.

The survey targets citizens over 18 years of age in communities all across the province.

The council divides the province into seven health zones: Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Edmundston, Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi.

These are then sub-divided into 33 communities. 

"We found the information can be very valuable to these communities and understanding health patterns, health behaviours."

Right now, calls are happening in Moncton and Campbellton. The calls will be shifted to other zones once the survey obtains the required number of responses.

Calls are expected to completed by June. 

Stéphane Robichaud, CEO of the New Brunswick Health Council, said this is the fourth Primary Health Survey the organization has done. (CBC)

People could be asked about their view of New Brunswick's health-care system, how healthy they are and if they have a family doctor.

Robichaud said the survey also looks at health-care services in rural areas compared to urban areas.

"And what we've found is there's no rule of thumb. Each community can have a very different situation."

There are two other surveys conducted by the New Brunswick Health Council every three years, including the Home Care Survey and Acute Care Survey

In 2011, the NBHC released its first Primary Health Survey, and follow-up surveys were done in 2014, 2017 and now 2020.

Results from the Primary Health Survey done in 2017, indicated only six out of 10 New Brunswick can see a family doctor within five days.

The report says in one community, as few as 19 per cent of respondents can get an appointment within five days, compared to 75 per cent of citizens in other communities. 

The three-year-old report says a lack of timely access to a family doctor was the "key reason New Brunswickers visited the ER as a regular place of care."

'An ongoing cycle'

The survey comes on the heels of the Progressive Conservative government announcing contentious health-care reforms to six hospitals last month, which Premier Blaine Higgs cancelled less than a week later.

The changes were scheduled to go into effect March 11. Now Higgs said there will be further consultations in April and May.

Protests were held outside hospitals affected by proposed cuts last month, including the Sussex Health Centre, pictured above. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

"Our timing has nothing to do with what announcements are made," Robichaud said. "It's an ongoing cycle."

In fact, since the first survey was released in 2008, the council has seen seen "slow take-up within provincial organizations." 

Robichaud said this information gets significant use from community groups and non-profits across the province.

"They want to know where the problems are. They want to know where they can have the most impact." 

He said the province is facing a huge challenge with its aging population and chronic conditions. So it's important for senior civil service to learn to use this type of information, to better interact with governments "cycle by cycle."

This will help different governments to be better positioned to make health-care decisions in the future.   

"The conversation will definitely continue because we have no choice," he said. "Changes will be required."


Elizabeth Fraser


Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip?

With files from Information Morning Moncton


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?