COVID-19 unit staff take care to wash away the danger

Then there are those like Angele Viger. She volunteered to care for COVID-19 patients after the cardiac clinic she worked in temporarily closed during quarantine.

“I really wanted to use my medical knowledge and my experience to help during COVID in any way that I could,” she said. “It’s certainly been, by far, the most difficult thing I’ve done in my entire career. It’s very emotional and it takes a pretty big toll on your mental health as well.”

Knowing she wouldn’t be the only one at heightened risk, she talked to her partner before reaching out to the dean of the McMaster physician assistant program about working on the front line.

“He was OK with it, he didn’t want to deter my efforts to help,” said Viger of her partner’s response. “He’s been a bit nervous and very cognizant of it. We’ve been quite diligent about any exposures ourselves.”

She is one of about a dozen physician assistants hired by Hamilton Health Sciences from April to August to specifically help with the pandemic.

“Everything was quite daunting right at the beginning, when I was very cognizant of what I was doing and the risks I was taking,” she said. “That was nerve-racking.”

But she never regretted it.

“These patients need someone to care for them,” she said. “They need empathy and they need a good team around them.” …READ MORE in The Hamilton Spectator.

New TELUS Discounts for CAPA Members

CAPA is pleased to offer exclusive rates on TELUS services to its members. With TELUS, you can get connected and stay connected anytime, anywhere. It’s easy and now more affordable than ever.

As a benefit of CAPA membership, TELUS is offering you discounts on:

  • Telus rate plans;
  • phones; and
  • home services such as Internet and TV,

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions to learn more! And visit our Member Benefits section to get started.

2020 PA Certification Exam and CPD Requirements

To support PAs during these challenging times, the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC) would like to inform all CCPAs and other Mainport ePortfolio participants that in alignment with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), all maintenance of certification requirements for 2020 are waived:

  • One year will be added to everyone’s cycle.
  • While no credits are required to be submitted this year, any credits submitted will still be counted towards your current (now six-year) cycle. We are also waiving the traditional 40-credit minimum requirement for 2020.

Like the RCPSC and CFPC, we too are affording this respite from reporting to allow our program participants to focus on their work and to take care of themselves.

Impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 PA Certification Exam Date

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC) has made the decision to postpone the fall 2020 exam to January 2021 (subject to change).

PACCC recognizes that students are anxious to receive firm details, and we will share this information broadly as soon as specifics are finalized. Thank you for your continued patience as we work through these complex and evolving circumstances.

New Exam Dates

We recognize the need for planning and PACCC will work to confirm and communicate a new date as soon as possible, while ensuring that all students have a fair opportunity to register.

Exam Registration

All students will be contacted directly by their education programs when online exam registration opens. CAPA/PACCC will also email anyone who is a Student Member in good standing or any potential rewrites about exam registration.

Exam Format

PACCC is considering and evaluating all delivery options for the exam; (in-person and online) to address public health concerns and comply with physical distancing guidelines that may be in effect at the time of the exam.

Remarks to B.C.’s Finance Committee on Budget 2021

Below are remarks delivered on June 10, 2020 by Eric Demers, Past-President, to British Columbia’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

Good Morning and thank you, Mr. Chair and Honourable Members, for the chance to speak to you today about our recommendations on the introduction of physician assistants, more commonly known as PAs, in B.C.

I am the Past-President of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants. We’re the voice of more than 700 PAs who work in public health systems and the Canadian Armed Forces. Here in B.C., we have almost 30 PAs, most of whom serve in the Forces.

Before I tell you what a PA is and the value we can bring to the health system, I want to share part of my story.

I served for 23 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. First, I was a Medical Technician, aka a medic, and later I progressed in my career and my medical training to become a certified PA. I trained to provide medical support to Canadian troops and populations in need. In armed conflicts, disasters, and domestic operations like the Olympics and G8 summits. I spent three years serving on submarines where I was the only PA on board and the lone medical professional providing primary and specialized care to the crew of more than 50 sailors.

I was also deployed to places like Libya, where as a PA I oversaw the health needs for the diplomatic mission and its security. And during my time as a medic I had the honour to deploy many times, including to Afghanistan, and care for our ill and gravely injured.

It has been challenging to be in Victoria and not have the opportunity to care for those in my community, never more so than during this pandemic. And that’s because PAs are not recognized here and cannot work here, despite the obvious need and strong support from Doctors BC, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, the BC Care Providers Association, the BC Rural Health Network, and others.

So instead of contributing in my community during the worst public health crisis we’ve ever seen, I travel across borders, as an essential worker, to deliver healthcare in a remote area.  I’m part of a team that includes B.C. physicians who supervise PAs from afar.

But if I, or any of my colleagues, could work here to our full scope of practice, here is how we could help:

Rural emergency departments in places like Ashcroft could stay open on weekends, instead of the closures we see thanks to doctor shortages. That’s because PAs can help manage departments, with local doctors providing oversight and available for urgent cases.

There would be more flexibility in the type of provider that can be recruited by rural and remote communities, including some First Nations communities. A full-time PA provides important continuity in areas where locum doctors may come and go. And with a broad scope of practice, PAs can help with everything from emergency services, women’s health, mental health, and chronic disease management.

And in long-term care the workforce would be strengthened. Studies show that PAs on staff in long-term care homes help reduce transfers to hospitals, improve patient safety, and save money. And we help eliminate delays in care and perform more procedures in-house.

PAs, like nurse practitioners, are advanced practice professionals. We are educated in the “medical model”, which means our training is similar to that of Canadian doctors. We work autonomously under the supervision of licensed doctors to deliver primary, acute, and specialty care in all types of clinical settings. PAs are trained to assess patients, order and interpret tests, make diagnoses, provide treatment, serve as first assist in surgery, and much more.

Today, B.C. lags behind Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick, and countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Germany in terms of integrating PAs in the health care workforce.

In its recommendations to governments, the Conference Board of Canada says: “PAs play a vital role in improving patient outcomes and reducing overall system costs. Canada needs to implement strategic policy and funding changes to the way that health human resources and health services are currently delivered.”

The Conference Board also reports that the Canadian health care system could save over $600 million dollars if the use of PAs increases across the country.

Today, CAPA recommends to the Committee that the provincial government recognize and regulate PAs under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

We also recommend that the government earmark $6.5 million in funding to hire 50 PAs over the course of the next three years and work with doctors, health system leaders, First Nations, and other stakeholders to identify where the PA model can have the greatest impact on patient care.

And lastly, we recommend that the government explore the creation of a PA education program through UBC that could establish a homegrown pipeline of PAs.

The coronavirus pandemic has swiftly changed our long-held beliefs about how we deliver care in this province. Some say we pushed the telemedicine revolution forward by at least a decade or more.

It’s time to make the same progress in our health care workforce. The PA model can help B.C. provide more care at a lower cost, while helping doctors focus on the complex patients who truly need their expertise.

Budget 2021 is an important opportunity to change the workforce landscape in our province in a way that will benefit generations to come. Thank you.

Budget 2021 is a chance to modernize B.C.’s health care workforce ahead of a second wave of COVID-19

Canadian Association of Physician Assistants calls on Horgan government to introduce, hire, and train physician assistants as part of the provincial response to the pandemic

VICTORIA, June 10, 2020—Today, the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants urged the British Columbia government to catch up with the rest of the globe and take the long overdue step of adding physician assistants (PAs) to the province’s health care workforce.

Eric Demers, a resident of Victoria and the Association’s immediate Past-President, made the recommendation in remarks he delivered at today’s Budget 2021 Consultations, held by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

“The immense role that PAs can play in boosting health system capacity is among the big global lessons from the first wave of COVID-19, but here at home I’m on the sidelines,” said Demers. “Right now I can only travel to northern Canada to deliver care at remote worksites because I can’t practice locally when I’m home. It doesn’t make sense.”

PAs are advanced practice clinicians trained in the medical model to work under the supervision of a licensed doctor and provide primary, acute, and specialty care in all types of settings. Today British Columbia lags behind other Canadian provinces, and countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States, in terms of using the PA model to streamline services, decrease costs, and improve the efficiency of the physician workforce.

As far back as 2013, Doctors of BC has supported the introduction of PAs through its policy statement. The Conference Board of Canada conducted an in-depth study and found that increasing the use of PAs could save the Canadian health system more than $600 million.

Unlike other new roles in health care, PAs represent a new workforce that can fill existing vacancies, instead of simply shifting gaps from one profession to another. And with a generalist training and a broad scope of practice, the government can quickly deploy PAs to fill needs across the health system.

CAPA’s pre-budget recommendations ask the government to:

  1. Regulate PAs under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.
  2. Provide health authorities with funding earmarked to hire 50 PAs over the next three years, at a cost of approximately $6.5 million.
  3. Work with physicians, health system leaders, First Nations, and other stakeholders to identify the specialties where PAs can have the greatest impact.
  4. Explore developing a PA Education Program at UBC to begin training homegrown PAs.

“I hear from so many PAs who would move here in a heartbeat to serve patients,” said Demers. “The government is looking for long-lasting solutions to help steer us through this crisis and we are ready to help.”

Quick Facts

  • More than 700 PAs practice across Canada in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, and New Brunswick.
  • Family medicine, emergency medicine, surgical specialties, and general medicine are among the many clinical settings where Canadian PAs are well-established.
  • The Conference Board of Canada recommends that governments capitalize on the potential of the PA profession by implementing strategic policy and funding changes to the way that health human resources and health services are delivered.

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:

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