BCRHN asks provincial government for clarification on physician assistants

The BCRHN has issued an open letter to the Secretary of Rural Health to clarify the government’s position on physician assistants.
A healthcare professional holding a stethoscope. (file)

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN) has issued an open letter to the Secretary of Rural Health to clarify the government’s position on physician assistants. 

The letter was issued to the secretary on March 8th after comments made by MLA Susie Chant on the topic of physician assistants went unanswered in the Legislative Assembly. 

On February 27th, MLA Shirley Bond asked whether or not the NDP government would consider allowing physician assistants to work in British Columbia, considering the state of the healthcare system. 

“Physician assistants could play a critical role in filling in the gaps in British Columbia’s crumbling health care systems. Yet current policies in our province exclude PAs from B.C.’s health care system,” Bond stated. 

Chant’s response contained no mention of physician assistants. 

According to the BCRHN’s letter, the provincial government has not given a clear response to their request to allow physician assistants to be licensed to work in British Columbia. 

“We have received mixed messages and confusion, which is why we are requesting direct communication from the Ministry,” the BCRHN stated. 

The BCRHN said they contacted the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC for a statement on their position on physician assistants and were given an “immediate and direct” response. 

“The College is prepared to do licensing and regulation of PAs if that becomes a priority of the Ministry of Health. And please tell all your friends. We are getting tired of the false accusations that the CPSBC is a barrier,” the CPSBC said. 

The letter also clarified that while the BCRHN appreciated the investments toward nurse practitioners and future healthcare workers in the province, it did not address the immediate issue. 

According to the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants, a physician assistant is a healthcare professional who graduated with a master’s or baccalaureate degree in medicine. Physician assistants work as extensions of licensed physicians and help to extend their services. 

Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Alberta are the only four provinces that allow licenced physician assistants, and Nova Scotia is in the process of implementing them. 

The BCRHN finished the letter by demanding a response from the BC government on their position on physician assistants. 

“We request a full response from you and ask for the Ministry’s official position on Physician Assistants being deployed in BC. We are also happy to meet with you and provide additional details, resources, and assistance to move this forward with haste,” the BCRHN said. 

“We see a solution and ask for action.” 

Another recent suggestion on how to help with the state of the healthcare system in B.C. came MLA Dan Davies request to allow unvaccinated healthcare professionals back to work. 

Northern Health also spoke with Energeticcity.ca to discuss what they were doing to help attract and retain healthcare workers in the region.

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