A remedy for doctor shortage

The Leader-Post
http://www.canada.com

It is no surprise that Saskatchewan (like other provinces) is facing a physician deficit. Hindsight being “20/20” indicates that the slow increase in medical training seats that is taking place now should have been done years ago.

As it can take up to 10 years to educate a physician, most educational institutions are behind in the increases they are attempting to implement today. These increases will not meet the supply needs being seen today, let alone 10 years from now.

People need basic health care. So what can be done about this?

The first answer is that not all basic health care needs to be provided solely by physicians. In 2004, Saskatchewan began licensing registered nurses (nurse practitioners). RN(NP)s are registered nurses with extensive additional education who can:

– Order, perform, receive and interpret reports of diagnostic tests;

– Prescribe and dispense drugs;

– Perform minor surgical and invasive procedures, and;

– Diagnose and treat common medical disorders.

RN(NP)s can provide complete check-ups, order tests, stitch wounds and order drugs, most of the services for which the public now waits, due to the physician shortage. There are now more than 100 RN(NP)s in Saskatchewan. Many of these nurse practitioners do not have jobs in the province.

As taxpayers of a publicly funded system, you have a right to understand why these RN(NP)s are not being hired to meet your basic health-care needs. Next time you wait to see a physician for a basic health service, start asking questions of your local MLA, your regional health board, your physician and the Saskatchewan Medical Association. They can inform you as to the reasons why RN(NP)s are not working to their full capacity to address your common health concerns.

Maureen Klenk

Klenk is chairperson of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Saskatchewan.

This article originally appeared on Canada.com. It was removed, but we will keep it for archiving purposes.

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