11/22/2016 18:00 EST | Updated 11/23/2017 00:12 EST

New Brunswick health care earns overall C grade from watchdog

New Brunswick's health-care system has received an overall grade of C from the province's health watchdog and a D for efficiency.

Certain elements of primary health and long-term care continue the push the overall grade down, the New Brunswick Health Council's annual report card, released on Tuesday, shows.

"If we're in the hands of our professionals within a hospital bed, within those hospital walls, in that area, we perform well as a province. Where we're not performing well is everything outside of that," said CEO Stéphane Robichaud.

Timely access to primary health care is one area where the province is "still not moving forward," he said.

Some family doctors' offices are doing "an excellent job." But "a huge number" are doing a "very poor job," said Robichaud.

Reliance on ERs, clinics

Many patients are forced to rely on emergency departments or after hours clinics, "Where these people serving them don't know them, they're not helping them in understanding their chronic conditions, and they're not helping understand their medications, or even how to manage that chronic condition moving forward."

"As a result, some hospital beds are occupied by individuals with health complications from chronic conditions that may not have received care with the optimal level of co-ordination and support," the report states.

The use of more expensive acute care resources is inefficient because it increases the cost of delivering services and results in fewer hospital beds being available for those who require hospitalization.

Moncton/Southeast had best grade

The Moncton/Southeast health zone had the best score, earning an overall B from the various performance indicators, while Restigouche had the worst with a  D, largely due to the demographic shift with the outmigration of young people, said Robichaud.

Grades can range from A+ to F.

Overall, the New Brunswick health system's performance is on par with other provinces and has consistently received a C grade since 2010, according to the report.

Still, Robichaud contends there's "greater awareness" that New Brunswick needs to change its overall approach and do a better job at informing citizens that changes in services is not necessarily a loss, but rather an investment of resources elsewhere.

The health council is an independent organization that measures, monitors and evaluates the province's health system performance. Its areas of focus include population health, quality of services and sustainability.