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Province Planning to Add Physician Assistants to Emergency Departments

The BC government is preparing to have physician assistants approved to work in emergency departments.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons has posted proposed bylaw changes online for public consultation and feedback.

If approved, physician assistants will work in emergency departments under the direction and supervision of doctors.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says his ministry has been working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons on moving forward with the plan.

Dix says they will help patients access the services they need as the province continues to build out team-based care across the health-care system.

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Dr. Heidi Oetter of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC says they are “pleased to be asked to license and regulate physician assistants.”

Lisa Stewart, a director of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants living in the Comox Valley, says they are thrilled to finally be stepping off the sidelines and work alongside doctors, nurses, and others to help fill a need and bring increased access to health care.

As for whether physician assistants will eventually move out of emergency departments to work in clinics and doctors’ offices, Stewart says they are not aware of what is being planned, but they are capable of doing so.

She adds that one important next step would be to establish a training program for physician assistants in the province.

Physician assistants are licensed to work in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.

Under the supervision of doctors, they provide a range of health services, including patient exams, ordering laboratory and diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, managing treatment plans, and advising patients on preventative care and health practices.

At this time, the health ministry estimates there between 30 and 50 Physician Assistants living in BC.

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