Ms. Tina Namiesniowski, President, Public Health Agency of Canada
Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
Dear Ms. Namiesniowski, Dr. Tam, and Minister Hajdu,
We are writing on behalf of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) regarding physician assistants (PAs) and potential contributions to the federal health care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to your current call to create an inventory of nurses to have on-call, we are asking you to consider the benefits of integrating the PA model in the federal workforce. We would be pleased to provide additional information about Canada’s PA workforce and are requesting the opportunity to speak by phone with your officials in the coming weeks.
COVID-19 Policy Implications
The impact of the novel coronavirus on Canada’s health care workforce and our current response to the pandemic have important short and long-term policy implications.
Before COVID-19, the shortage of health care professionals in many parts of the country was dire and it is now clear that Canada needs a comprehensive strategy to expand the workforce. Some physician regulatory colleges have already asked retired physicians to reregister for their licences. The Canadian Medical Association formally recommends the establishment of emergency pan-Canadian licensure for health care professionals to easily practice in regions experiencing higher infection rates:
“In this time of public health crisis, the federal government must ensure that regulatory barriers do not prevent health care providers from delivering care to patients when and where they need it. Many jurisdictions and regions in Canada are experiencing significant shortages in health care workers.”
It is vital that, during this time of national crisis, our federal health leaders not miss the opportunity to call Canadian PAs into service, along with our physician and nursing colleagues.
Regulatory Relief for PAs
A critical regulatory relief measure that can help boost the government’s health workforce capacity is the immediate authorization of physician oversight of PAs in federal health care settings where they are not yet integrated.
PAs are “physician extenders” and work as advanced practice clinicians under the supervision of a licensed doctor to provide primary, acute, and specialty care in all types of settings (more here in our Information Brief). Provinces like Manitoba and New Brunswick, where PAs are regulated under provincial physician colleges, provide a roadmap for how physician oversight can efficiently and effectively function. In the Canadian Armed Forces PAs often operate as senior medical leaders, both domestically and internationally, and the CAF can offer an example of oversight that can be quickly replicated.
The shifting of medical tasks, through substitution or delegation, to free up physicians for more complex care, is a key benefit of integrating the PA model. The PA model allows for the efficient reorganization of the workforce and provides one viable solution for improving coverage, efficiently using human resources, and increasing capacity.
Ready To Serve
Right now, PAs are with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and many others at the frontline of this pandemic. They are helping to manage COVID-19 screening and testing sites, managing isolation areas where respiratory illnesses are screened and treated, and manning telephone help lines to divert patients from the emergency department.
During this time when the federal government is exploring policy measures to respond to COVID-19, CAPA strongly believes that integrating the PA model is worthy of serious consideration.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. And, more importantly, on behalf of our members we thank you all for your leadership, commitment, and compassion during this very difficult period.
Leslie St. Jacques, CCPA