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PAs can help address the doctor shortage in Snow Lake

To the Editor: I am as concerned as anyone to read about the impact that the physician shortage is having on healthcare in Snow Lake.

To the Editor: I am as concerned as anyone to read about the impact that the physician shortage is having on healthcare in Snow Lake. However, I am very encouraged by the introduction of a Physician Assistant (PA) in this community to provide oversight for patients in need.

Having worked as a PA in the Canadian Armed Forces for over 20 years and in the public healthcare system the past 11, I, along with my colleagues, share a sense of great satisfaction and pride with the care we provide our patients. Personally, I know that communities such as Snow Lake will benefit from having more PAs. As part of healthcare teams, PAs have been providing safe, effective, quality healthcare in Manitoba and throughout Canada for several years now.

PAs are highly trained healthcare professionals who work under the delegation of a physician. PAs can extend physicians’ services so that more patients can have access to quality care. This can be evidenced by the 60 plus PAs employed in Manitoba who are currently serving patients in primary care and hospital settings.

Working independently under the supervision of a physician, PAs can increase the number of patients seen, thereby allowing physicians to take on new patients and hospital emergency departments to stay open providing urgent care for Manitobans. Supervision can occur remotely and in many other jurisdictions PAs are practicing in rural settings, while their supervising physician is providing care to patients in another location. In the Canadian Armed Forces, where the profession originated in Canada, PAs work independently on ships and on the front lines with only satellite access to their supervising physicians. This has been a proven model for decades.

PAs can play a valuable role in reducing wait times and improving patient flow as well as expediting surgical procedures. In primary care settings PAs can be used for 75 per cent of all visits without referral to a physician and they can manage up to 62 per cent of all patients in emergency care environments.

Hiring additional PAs in regions such as Snow Lake will help to alleviate the physician shortage in the community. To help improve patient care while reducing costs, the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants is calling on government to expand access to PAs.

-Trevor Stone is the prairie chapter president for the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants