Physician assistants to political parties: Time to bring our expertise to more patients across New Brunswick

The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants calls on all parties to commit to increasing the number of physician assistants to help improve the health of New Brunswickers

FREDERICTON, July 31, 2018 — Ahead of New Brunswick’s upcoming election, calls are growing louder for candidates and political parties to commit to growing the number of physician assistants currently practicing in the province.

“Physician assistants are a health force multiplier,” said Kevin Dickson, New Brunswick’s Provincial Director for the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) and a physician assistant who practices at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital. “Adding physician assistants to multidisciplinary teams just makes sense because we’re proven to help in the key areas governments need to tackle — like wait times and access to care — and we support overstretched doctors.”

To help bring down wait times and save money, CAPA is encouraging all parties to support increased funding for physician assistants in hospitals, primary care settings, and long-term care and to create more training spaces to help the province recruit and retain these valuable health care providers.

The term physician assistant may be a mystery to many people, but in fact the profession has been around for more than 40 years and health systems in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and within the Canadian Forces have widely adopted the role. Physician assistants are highly skilled health care providers who work under the supervision of a licensed physician to perform delegated tasks and help improve access to care. Taking patient histories, conducting physical exams, ordering and interpreting tests, and prescribing medications are just a few examples of what they do.

As emergency room (ER) overcrowding and long wait times continue to plague the province, physician assistants are already playing an unsung role in turning the tide. At the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital where Dickson practices, having two full-time physician assistants on staff has helped lower two key ER benchmarks — the Leave Without Being Seen rate went from 16 per cent to 11 per cent and the Initial Practitioner Assessment Time was reduced by approximately 40 per cent.

“Modern medicine is a team sport and physician assistants play a critical role on the collaborative health care team in our ER,” said Dr. Graeme Young, Chief of Emergency Medicine, Fredericton Zone at the Horizon Health Network. “When we introduced them several years ago, New Brunswick was considered a pioneer. Today we lag in terms of funding them and taking advantage of what they bring to patients and the health system.”

Beyond helping improve the quality of patient care, adding more physician assistants has the potential to save money. A 2016 report from the Conference Board of Canada found that if physician assistants could relieve more than 30 per cent of a doctor’s time in all practice areas, the system could realize $620 million in cost savings.

“Around the world physician assistants are known to help stressed health systems reduce costs and improve care,” says CAPA President Trevor Stone. “Now is the time to move quickly and expand the numbers in New Brunswick. With better and faster access to care, it is patients who would be the big winners.”

Additional Information and Resources

Reports from the Conference Board of Canada on the role, effectiveness, and value of physician assistants:

About the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants

The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants is the national voice of physician assistants in Canada. We support quality standards and competencies and help establish the profession within the national health care framework. Learn more:

Media Contact: Andrea Tiwari, Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations, or 613 521 2226.