Expanding physician assistants key to tackling shortage of health care providers and meeting needs of patients

OTTAWA, November 27, 2019—On November 27 Canadian physician assistants (PAs) are marking National Physician Assistant Day and renewing their call for provincial and territorial governments to lift regulatory road blocks that prevent them from practicing in parts of the country where demand for care is skyrocketing.

Across Canada, nursing shortages and the uneven distribution of doctors make it difficult for patients to access health care when they need it. The impact is most acute in rural communities, where many people don’t have a family physician and persistent staffing issues lead to service reductions in essential areas like emergency and obstetric departments.

“The health care clinician shortage is not happening in provincial silos,” said Leslie St. Jacques, CCPA, President of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants. “All governments should be opening the doors to PAs and use them to build the essential workforce that can meet the needs of their people and strengthen team-based care.”

PAs are medically trained clinicians who work under the supervision of a licensed doctor to extend productivity and allow more patients to be seen. They provide primary, acute, and specialty care in all types of settings and help address unmet needs, decrease costs, and boost the efficiency of the physician workforce.

Today there are over 650 certified PAs practicing in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta. In the Canadian Armed Forces they provide essential care to Canada’s military personnel at home and abroad. National PA Day is a chance to raise awareness and celebrate the significant contributions that PAs make to health care.

This year, important progress has been made by PAs in Atlantic Canada—in September, Nova Scotia became the fifth province to introduce the profession into its health system. The Nova Scotia Health Authority will add three PAs into its orthopaedic surgery service at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre to tackle wait times for hip and knee surgeries.

But with more than 80 physician vacancies listed on the NSHA website and almost 50,000 Nova Scotians on the province’s Need a Family Practice Registry, calls to integrate PAs in specialties like primary care and emergency medicine are growing.

“The bottom line is that PAs are qualified and cost-effective health care professionals who must be must be an essential part of Canada’s health human resource strategy,” said St. Jacques. “And when PAs are empowered to work to the full scope of our education and medical training, we strengthen team-based care, shorten wait times, save money, and boost the productivity of physicians.”

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: capa-acam.ca.

Media Contact: Andrea Tiwari, Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations, atiwari@capa-acam.ca or 613 614 6863.