Dear Minister Aylward and Deputy Minister Spidel,
I’m writing on behalf of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants as a follow up to our meetings last fall regarding the integration of physician assistants (PAs) in Prince Edward Island’s health system. At the time, your Government was working towards introducing the PA model at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Emergency Department and reviewing legislative options to formally integrate the profession.
COVID-19 Policy Implications
We appreciate that the provincial response to COVID-19 is now your top priority, and as you consider measures to address health workforce capacity, the loss of health care providers to quarantine, and the well-documented demand for health care professionals, we encourage you to include PAs in your pandemic planning to realize short and long-term benefits.
In their recent federal recommendations, the Canadian Medical Association called for the elimination of barriers that stop health care workers from delivering care where it is most needed:
“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.”
CAPA strongly supports this opinion. We believe that provinces should take similar steps to allow “all hands on deck” during this crisis and facilitate the recruitment of PAs over the next year, and potentially sooner.
Regulatory Relief for PAs
A critical measure that can help boost local workforce capacity is your immediate collaboration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of PEI to authorize physician oversight of PAs in the province.
PAs are “physician extenders” and work as advanced practice clinicians under the supervision of a licensed doctor to provide primary, acute, and specialty care. Manitoba and New Brunswick, where PAs are regulated under provincial physician colleges, provide a roadmap for how physician oversight can 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.
By shifting medical tasks to PAs, through substitution or delegation, physicians are freed up for more complex care. The PA model allows for the efficient reorganization of the workforce and, thanks to the versatility of the PA scope of practice, provides one viable solution for improving coverage, efficiently using human resources, and increasing capacity.
Ready To Serve
Right now PAs across Canada 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 helping manage emergency departments, critical care units, and surgical wards.
During this time when PEI is exploring policy measures to respond to COVID-19, CAPA strongly believes that integrating the PA model is worthy of serious consideration.
We would be pleased to discuss these issues with your officials and are requesting the opportunity to speak by phone at the earliest opportunity.
Thank you for your consideration and for the important work you are doing to protect the health and wellness of Islanders. I look forward to hearing from your office soon.