Family physicians are the quarterbacks of the health system and are uniquely qualified to provide patient care and advocate on behalf of their patients. Unfortunately, like many other jurisdictions in Canada, there are simply not enough physicians in New Brunswick to serve the patient population.
If you are seeking a family physician, you should contact Patient Connect NB online or by phoning Tele-Care 811 to be placed on a waiting list. Wait times for a family physician can vary greatly, but Patient Connect NB is the first point of contact. It is a partnership between the Department of Health, Service New Brunswick, the regional health authorities, and primary health care providers to connect patients with the primary care they need.
Challenges accessing a family physician
New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS) polling in 2018 found that approximately 44,000 New Brunswickers did not have a primary care physician. This number has remained high for several years. In 2017, Statistics Canada reported that approximately 6.4 per cent of our population — 49,000 individuals — did not have a family physician.
The challenges in New Brunswick are many:
- a shortage of family physicians and specialists;
- an aging population that requires more access to health-care resources and places greater demand on health-care professionals;
- high levels of chronic disease including diabetes, obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Like any industry, medicine is competitive. New Brunswick must compete with other provinces to attract health-care practitioners. The NBMS has long advocated for the modernization of physician recruitment to attract and retain more physicians in New Brunswick. In 2019, after years of lobbying from the NBMS, the provincial government eliminated the archaic physician billing number system, which restricted where physicians could practise in the province.
Today, the NBMS is working with government and the regional health authorities on existing physician recruitment opportunities, a plan for future physician recruitment, and a long-term physician resource strategy.
We are encouraged by these developments and look forward to a better future for health care in New Brunswick and better access to care for patients.