Ontario is right to give nurses and pharmacists a bigger role
TheStar.com – Opinion/editorials – Putting self-interest ahead to patient care, Ontario Medical Association resists provincial move to delegate routine tasks to nurses and pharmacists
Jan 20 2014. Editorial
Ontario’s doctors are straining to handle their patient loads, as anyone trying to schedule an appointment, stuck in a waiting room or searching for a family physician can attest.
“Pharmacists are not trained to conduct differential diagnosis or take a patient’s history during an examination,” he cautioned. “Administering a series of vaccines requires an understanding of the need, timing and indication of the vaccines in relation to a patient’s specific medical condition.”
These objections don’t stand up to scrutiny. There is no need for a full examination to treat an ear ache, a cold, a persistent cough or constipation. A pharmacist is perfectly capable of asking about allergies and drug reactions before administering a flu shot.
Health Minister Deb Matthews has made it clear she intends to keep expanding the role of nurses, nurse-practitioners and pharmacists in Ontario’s health-care system. Her minister has already authorized 24 clinics led by nurse practitioners and widened the range of services that pharmacists can provide.
The province is driven by both economics and lack of access to health care. By devolving routine tasks to lower-paid professionals, the province stretches its dollars, frees up doctors to concentrate on serious illnesses and gives patients more options.
The OMA is fighting a rearguard action. Whether doctors like it or not, teamwork is the way of the future.
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Give nurses more responsibility
TheStar.com – Opinion/Readers’ Letters – Re: Family doctor availability: only 41 per cent of Canadians get quick appointments, Jan. 20
Jan 23 2014. Doris Grinspun / Mohammad Zubairi
Family doctor availability: only 41 per cent of Canadians get quick appointments, Jan. 20
Enabling registered nurses (RN) to take on more responsibilities will help close the gap faced by Ontarians waiting to get a primary care appointment, and will also make the health system more efficient and cost-effective.
If RNs are able to order tests, diagnose, and treat simple ailments such as sore throats, earaches, bladder and yeast infections, that will make a huge dent in the number of people waiting to see primary care providers and free up physicians and nurse practitioners to see patients with more complex needs.
We have been saying this for years, as this is already happening in the U.K. (for 15 years), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia. Here in Ontario, in some rural and remote areas, some RNs are already working with expanded powers.
Nurses have the competencies, education and expertise to take on these kinds of duties. Not allowing them to do so will only continue to hamper the public’s access to health care.
Doris Grinspun, Chief Executive Officer, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
Expanded duties for nurses and pharamacists is not question of “if,” but “when.” Estimates suggest that 95 per cent of health-care dollars go to hospitals and doctors. There is an urgent need to re-think our healthcare system in Ontario given lengthy waitlists, poor access and unncessary spending by doctors.
How can we celebrate patient-centred care when the patient is infrequently part of the equation? Nurses and pharmacists will help to balance this equation by reaching the patient faster, and ultimately, improve health outcomes of all in Ontario.
Mohammad Zubairi, M.D., Toronto
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