TORONTO, Feb. 24, 2017 /CNW/ - Ontario moved closer to unlocking the full potential of its registered nurses (RN) and nurse practitioners (NP) Thursday when health minister Eric Hoskins announced the government's plan to authorize RNs to prescribe medications independently and NPs to prescribe controlled substances.
In a speech at the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's (RNAO) 17th-annual Queen's Park Day, Hoskins said he is bringing forward amendments to the Nursing Act this spring to give RNs the authority to prescribe medications independently and communicate diagnoses. Hoskins also said the regulatory changes needed to allow nurse practitioners (NPs) to prescribe controlled substances are coming very soon.
Expanding the scope of practice for RNs and NPs is a longtime priority for RNAO because it will secure timely access to quality health services, and lead to a more effective and efficient health system. Once amendments are passed, Ontario will become the first Canadian jurisdiction where RNs independently prescribe and communicate diagnoses.
"By taking this tremendous step, we're making history," says RNAO chief executive officer Doris Grinspun, who was among more than 110 RNs, NPs, and nursing students visiting Queen's Park as part of the event. "RNs and NPs have the expertise to increase access to care in all corners of our province, and we are delighted this will soon become a reality."
Over the course of Queen's Park Day, RNAO members met with more than 55 MPPs from all parties, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, Minister Hoskins, PC Party Leader Patrick Brown and Health Critic Jeff Yurek, as well as NDP Party Leader Andrea Horwath and Deputy Party Leader Jagmeet Singh.
RNAO's evidence-based advocacy was rewarded during an afternoon question-and-answer session, when Hoskins also threw his support behind another RNAO priority: public funding for offloading devices. Ontarians currently must pay out of pocket for these devices, which help people with diabetic foot ulcers avoid amputations. RNAO says every unnecessary amputation dramatically alters a patient's life and costs the government more than $70,000.
Hoskins recently asked Health Quality Ontario (HQO) to look into the issue, and says he will accept the HQO committee's recommendations, which include public funding for three types of offloading devices. The move to fund offloading devices will be another first for Canada.
"Funding these devices will make an enormous difference for people with diabetes, who should not lose their limbs simply because they cannot pay," says RNAO President Carol Timmings. "Investing in preventive measures like this is good for patients, and good for the government's bottom line," she adds.
Hoskins also reiterated a promise to locate the province's 4,100 co-ordinators – mostly RNs – into primary care, once community care access centres (CCAC) are absorbed by Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN). "This is a vital to strengthening primary care and ensuring Ontarians have co-ordinated care."
Other parties also voiced their support for RNAO policy initiatives. During question period, Brown demanded Ontario's RN-to-population ratio – the lowest in Canada – be brought back in line with the rest of the country. He later expressed his support for independent RN prescribing, and the inclusion of nurses in legislation helping first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Throughout the day, Horwath and NDP Health Critic France Gelinas made the case for a $15 per hour minimum wage.
"Increasingly, politicians from all parties are looking to RNAO for advice on developing healthy public policy," Timmings said. "It's a testament to how far the nursing profession has come, and how much it is sure to grow in the future."
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (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: or to interview a nurse, please contact: Daniel Punch, Communications Officer/Writer, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO), 416-408-5606 / 1-800-268-7199 ext. 250, dpunch@RNAO.ca