May 2nd, 2022

Houston government continues to ignore surgery backlog solution

HALIFAX – The NSNDP continues to call on the Houston government to allow physician assistants (PAs) to work in Nova Scotia hospitals. Currently, there are three PAs working as part of a pilot project in orthopedics at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. Allowing more PAs to work in our system could take pressure off a seriously understaffed health system and help address the surgery backlog. The Premier’s plan to fix health care included almost no new targets or timelines and did not include any mention of physician assistants.

As of March of this year, there were 27,000 Nova Scotians waiting for surgery. Wendy Keen is one of them and recently had her hip replacement surgery delayed for the third time.

“When I got the call on Friday that my surgery was being cancelled for the 3rd time I felt deflated. I need to have my hip replaced and I’m worried the longer it takes for me to get surgery the more chance there is that I’ll fall and end up needing even more serious medical care,” said Keen, an active 74-year-old who cares for her granddaughter after school. “When we hear there are 27,000 people waiting for surgery it’s hard to see what that means for each person. I’m one of those people and it has been more and more difficult to live in pain and with the stress of not knowing when I will finally get the surgery I need.”

Physician assistants represent a pool of trained health care workers who are currently underutilized. Typical duties of a PA include examining and diagnosing patients, giving treatments such as shots and setting bones, prescribing medicine, and assisting in surgery. They report to a supervising doctor.

“We have heard from Nova Scotians who are already qualified to work as physician assistants and who want to work in Nova Scotia,” said NDP Health and Wellness spokesperson Susan Leblanc. “The health care crisis is complex and will take any number of innovative ideas to make a difference. Why the Houston government won’t take this idea and put it into action remains a mystery to me.”

A Conference Board of Canada report said integrating physician assistants into emergency rooms could save the health system up to $1 billion a year nationwide.