Regulate Alberta’s physician assistants to strengthen the health care workforce

April 23, 2020

Dear Minister Shandro,

On behalf of physician assistants (PAs) across Alberta, we thank you for your dedication to the wellbeing of Albertans and your support of frontline health care professionals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

We are writing today to propose enacting PA regulation as a means to strengthen the provincial health care workforce capacity, mitigate the loss of health care workers to self-isolation, and meet the demand for skilled providers during a surge in COVID-19 cases. We have outlined the current limitations PAs face and the immediate benefits of regulation in the attached briefing note.

We would be pleased to discuss these issues with your officials and are requesting the opportunity to speak by phone at the earliest opportunity.

CAPA is not alone in proposing solutions to mobilize the PA workforce during this pandemic. Across the United States, where more than 120,000 PAs practice, some of the states hardest hit by COVID-19 have introduced executive orders to mobilize PAs during this crisis.

An Earlier Timeline For Regulation

After our communications in March 2020 with your Chief of Staff Christopher Thresher, we understood that fall 2020 is the proposed timeline for regulation. However, we believe that the policy should be considered in the context of surge capacity planning and we recommend the swift introduction of regulation to help Alberta Health Services deploy PAs where they are most needed during the pandemic.

Beyond COVID-19: Regulation and the MacKinnon Report

The MacKinnon Report commissioned by your government rightly notes that “not all patients need to be treated by doctors or registered nurses”. The Blue Ribbon Panel highlighted the need to maximize the scope of practice of other health care professionals to help Alberta deliver better outcomes at a better cost.

Therefore, we’d like to highlight the flexible PA scope of practice, which mirrors that of the supervising physician. With regulation in place PAs could work at the “top of their scope” and this, coupled with their expertise and lower salary costs, makes our profession ideally positioned to help AHS deliver high quality, cost-effective health care.

Thank You

Today, CAPA submits our recommendation in the spirit of collaboration and innovation. We strongly believe that by regulating PAs now, AHS can improve coverage, efficiently use skilled and flexible resources, and increase capacity during a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. And, more importantly, on behalf of our members we thank you again for your leadership, commitment, and compassion during this very difficult period.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Luomala, MPAS, CCPA
Provincial Director, Alberta
Neurosurgery Physician Assistant, Alberta Health Services

Patrick Nelson
Executive Director