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Groups say nurse practitioners would help rural Sask. with healthcare challenges

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The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) says rural parts of the province are experiencing a health care crisis and are in desperate need of support.

SARM feels that nurse practitioners could be a part of the solution.

“A nurse practitioner has a very similar scope to that of a family doctor. We can prescribe medicines, we can prescribe tests, and we can make referrals to specialists. There’s very few things that we can not do that your family doctor is able to do,” Marcie Dunn, who is a nurse practitioner in Ontario, said.

There are 328 nurse practitioners in Saskatchewan but 10 per cent are under-employed and working as registered nurses. Urban municipalities back the call for more.

“If we can get more nurse practitioners in our areas, that would really assist [and] would guarantee that our residents could see and get the health care they need,” Randy Goulden, president of Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) said.

SARM is calling for a “grow your own” program where rural nurses could be paid while upgrading their skills to the nurse practitioner level. The Saskatchewan NDP said it supports the suggestion.

“There’s a staffing crisis in communities across the province, particularly in rural Saskatchewan where we’ve lost over 21 per cent of our nurses,” NDP leader Carla Beck said. “This is a common-sense solution.”

The provincial government had no immediate response but has been considering the use of more nurse practitioners.

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