Health professionals to get wider powers
TheStar.com – Ontario/Healthzone.ca – Health professionals to get wider powers
May 12, 2009. Tanya Talaga, QUEEN’S PARK BUREAU
The province has unveiled reforms that will enable physiotherapists to order X-rays, midwives to use breathing tubes on struggling newborns and pharmacists to refill prescriptions without doctors’ orders.
The changes are part of a Liberal initiative to ease long hospital wait times and address the provincial doctor shortage. About 850,000 Ontarians need a family doctor.
In the Legislature yesterday, Health Minister David Caplan introduced amendments to expand the scope of practice for 14 health professions. “Some people will say we have gone too far; others that we have not gone far enough,” he said.
“No one professional can possibly meet all a patient’s needs,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty. “The next best thing is to ensure we minimize the number of stops a patient makes while travelling through the health care system.”
But Ontario’s nurses say the changes stop short of doing what’s truly needed to ease patient flow in overcrowded hospitals by failing to give nurses the power to prescribe more drugs and to admit or discharge patients.
The changes will give nurse practitioners the power to order bone density tests and scans, and set a fracture or dislocation of a joint, but more could easily have been done, said Tina Hurlock-Chorostecki, president of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario.
“They really need to move toward prescriptive authority that allows nurse practitioners to provide everything patients will need in the health-care system,” she said. Nurse practitioners can prescribe some drugs, but this power is limited.
Dr. Alan Hudson, chair of eHealth Ontario, said the changes will improve wait times by freeing up doctors. “About half of what family doctors do could be done by other people,” he said.