Physician assistant pilot program at Fredericton hospital made permanent after 12 years


Physician assistant pilot program at Fredericton hospital made permanent after 12 years

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In a groundbreaking move, New Brunswick, Health Minister Bruce Fitch announced on Monday that the physician assistant pilot program at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton will now be a permanent fixture after a successful 12-year trial period.

The program, initiated in 2011, has demonstrated its value by significantly reducing wait times and providing essential care to approximately 7,000 patients in the past year alone.

Key Achievements of the Physician Assistant Program:

  1. Wait Time Reduction: Physician assistants have played a pivotal role in streamlining patient care, contributing to a substantial reduction in wait times at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital.

  2. Patient-Centric Approach: The program focuses on patient needs, addressing gaps in primary care that the current workforce may struggle to meet. Physician assistants, through their versatile skills, can conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, develop treatment plans, and provide preventative healthcare.

  3. Emergency Department Impact: The program's success is particularly noteworthy in the emergency department, where physician assistants have been limited to during the pilot phase.

Expansion Plans and Future Prospects:

While currently limited to the emergency department, plans are underway to expand the program across the province. The success at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital has prompted Horizon to consider adding more physician assistants, with budgeting discussions set to begin in January.

Despite taking 12 years to transition from a pilot to a permanent program, Health Minister Bruce Fitch expressed his commitment to further expanding the initiative. He acknowledged that the delay was partly due to the need to build trust and demonstrate success with the limited number of physician assistants.

Physician Assistants: Bridging Gaps in Healthcare

Physician assistant Kevin Dickson, one of the three PAs at the Fredericton hospital, expressed optimism about the program's potential expansion. With approximately 1,000 physician assistants across Canada, the profession is gaining traction, especially in the Maritimes.

Dickson highlighted the importance of the program in addressing the needs of patients that may not be fully met by the existing workforce of physicians and nurse practitioners. He emphasized that the key challenge is a shortage of skilled providers, and physician assistants offer a promising solution.

As educational programs for physician assistants become more common in Canada, including the upcoming program at Dalhousie University in January, the profession's growth is expected to accelerate. With competitive salaries ranging between $100,000 and $250,000, physician assistants have the potential to attract skilled professionals, even from the United States.

In conclusion, the permanent adoption of the physician assistant program at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital marks a significant milestone in healthcare innovation. As the program expands, it promises to bridge crucial gaps in patient care and contribute to the evolution of the healthcare workforce in New Brunswick.

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