Proposed changes to scope of practice for Nurse Practitioners insufficient to increase timely access to health services: Nurses say

    TORONTO, May 11 /CNW/ - Regulations aimed at changing the way nurse
practitioners (NPs) practice represent a step in the right direction but the
top professional nursing organization in Ontario says the government has
missed an opportunity to lift the regulatory handcuffs that limit the role of
NPs to increase timely access to health services and reduce wait times.
    The proposed changes are set out in legislation unveiled today by Premier
Dalton McGuinty and Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care David
    The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) and the Nurse
Practitioners' Association of Ontario (NPAO) say they are pleased that under
the proposed legislation, NPs will now be able to carry out a variety of acts
and treatment procedures previously not authorized to them such as setting or
casting bone fractures, dispensing certain drugs, ordering bone density tests,
as well as MRIs. "These changes are welcome and will alleviate a great deal of
frustration among NPs who have felt their education, skills and experience are
not fully utilized in Ontario," says Wendy Fucile, president of RNAO.
    But RNAO and NPAO say the government will fail the public if they refuse
to act in two key areas: broader prescribing authority to enable timely access
to pharmaceutical treatment, and authority to admit and discharge patients in
    Fucile says the government ignored a key recommendation that the College
of Nurses of Ontario (the nurses' regulatory body that is accountable to
protect the public) had called for in the area of prescribing medications. The
College, with full support from RNAO and NPAO, called for open prescribing for
NPs, which already exists in most jurisdictions in Canada and the United
States. "NPs in Ontario have been able to prescribe a limited number of
medications for the past 11 years, but the model government has chosen to
continue using is outdated and significantly hinders timely pharmacological
treatment," Fucile says, adding that "the McGuinty government must do what is
right for the public by following the rest of Canada."
    RNAO and NPAO argue the province also failed to recognize that NPs
represent a critical resource when it comes to reducing wait times by
improving access to enter and exit the hospital system. "We asked government
to remove legislative barriers and allow NPs to admit and discharge patients
in hospitals and other institutional settings," says Tina Hurlock-Chorostecki,
President of NPAO, an expert group of RNAO, which represents all NPs in the
province. "As a nurse practitioner working in a hospital setting, I know
first-hand that NPs can positively impact patient care and reduce wait lists,"
adds Hurlock-Chorostecki.
    Doris Grinspun, RNAO's executive director states that "nurses and nurse
practitioners look forward to working with government and others on amending
the proposed legislation to ensure that NPs' expertise, knowledge and skills
are fully available to serve the public." Grinspun says "NPs have the
competencies and experience to ensure patients are moving through the system
effectively and efficiently while getting the timely and quality care they
need and deserve."
    RNAO and NPAO will pursue all the necessary amendments to the legislation
so that the public can take full advantage of NPs. "Ontario was the first
jurisdiction in Canada to regulate the NP role 11 years ago but has fallen
significantly behind the rest of the country in fully engaging the role to
improve access to timely, safe and effective care," says Grinspun. She adds,
"Premier McGuinty must live up to his words that NPs are an untapped resource
that government must take full advantage of. If the premier is serious about
improving access to patient care and reducing wait times, then he must make
all necessary amendments to the legislation."

    The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional
association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario.
Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in
nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care
system, and influence decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

    The Nurse Practitioners' Association of Ontario (NPAO) is the
professional association representing nurse practitioners in Ontario since
1973. NPAO is an expert group of RNAO for issues related to nurse practitioner
practice. NPAO's mission is to achieve full integration of Nurse Practitioners
to ensure accessible, high quality health care for Ontarians.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, Registered Nurses' Association of
Ontario, (647) 406-5605 (cellular), (416) 408-5605 (office); Jane Sanders,
Executive Director, Nurse Practitioners' Association of Ontario, (647)
300-6726 (cellular), (416) 593-8746 (office)

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