Premier, Minister of Health say province is moving forward on RN prescribing

TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario is proceeding with its plan to expand registered nurses' scope of practice to include prescribing, and is launching consultations in collaboration with the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) beginning in the spring.

This announcement was made by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Health Eric Hoskins at RNAO's annual Queen's Park Day, a 15-year-old tradition in which nurses head to the provincial legislature to press for system change and offer solutions on issues affecting the health of Ontarians. Wynne first promised to expand RNs' scope of practice at RNAO's 2013 annual general meeting. At the time, she acknowledged nurses wanted their scope of practice to match their expertise. She reiterated her pledge to expand scope of practice by allowing RNs to prescribe medications at a Nursing Week announcement in May 2014. 

RN prescribing will give patients enhanced access to our health system, says RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun, adding that "it is vital if the province wants to move to same-day access in primary care, and improved quality of care in long-term care. This change will also enable health professionals in all sectors to deliver care in a more effective and efficient way. We look forward to partnering with the government and stakeholders to shape these changes."  

Scope of practice was only one of the top issues more than 130 registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students discussed at Queen's Park Day. Members spoke to 65 MPPs – including Wynne, Hoskins, Jim Wilson, interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, PC Health Critic Christine Elliott, and NDP Health Critic France Gélinas – about the urgency of increasing compensation for nurse practitioners in primary care and home care. "NPs are tremendously disadvantaged in their salary and benefits, sometimes earning as much as $20,000 less per year than those who work in hospitals," says Grinspun. Hoskins confirmed the Ministry of Health is looking into this "serious" issue. 

Nurses also asked politicians to legislate a ban on medical tourism, a practice where health-care institutions create for-profit programs to attract patients from abroad to receive health care ahead of the line on a pay-for-treatment basis. In November, Hoskins requested Ontario hospitals not to market to, solicit or treat international patients – with the exception of international patient activity related to a hospital's existing international consulting contracts. He also pledged that the Ministry of Health will review all such contracts within four to six months. In the interim, he has asked hospitals not to enter into new international consulting contracts that include the treatment of foreign nationals in Ontario. "These are all steps in the right direction," says Vanessa Burkoski, RNAO's president, "but we need a complete ban. That is why RNAO and its coalition partners are calling for such a ban to be enshrined in legislation. If the government is serious about safeguarding universality and our not-for-profit health-care system, then we must take this fundamental step."

Nurses also pressed all political parties to change the system so it is anchored in primary care. And they called on the government to invest more money in affordable housing, to raise the minimum wage to $14 per hour, and to move on commitments the government has made to reduce toxics in the environment.

This year marks the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's (RNAO) 90th anniversary. RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at RNAO.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

SOURCE Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact: Melissa Di Costanzo, Communications Officer, RNAO, Phone: 416-408-5606, Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext. 250, mdicostanzo@RNAO.ca; For requests outside of office hours, please contact: Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO, Cell: 647-406-5605, mzych@RNAO.ca

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