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Sask. government hopes physician assistants will help take pressure off health care system

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Legislation to license physician assistants has been introduced by the Government of Saskatchewan.

The primary role of physician assistants is to ease the burden of doctors. Saskatchewan has experienced struggles with their health care system, with several groups and politicians calling for more to be done.

The Medical Profession Amendment Act, 2023 was introduced on Thursday in the legislature and will regulate physician assistants under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, according to a news release from the province.

"Licensing and integrating Physician Assistants into our health care teams will help meet the health care needs of Saskatchewan people," health minister Paul Merriman said in the release.

The legislation supports $1.3 million in spending from the provincial budget to create 12 physician assistant positions across the health care system for the first time, according to the release.

Expected benefits to patients include reduced wait times, improved discharge rates, and decrease in length of hospital stays, as physician assistants are meant to reduce physician workload, the province said.

Before the legislation was introduced, the Ministry of Health consulted with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Medical Association, and the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, NDP MLA Vicki Mowat said this is what physicians have been calling for, is to create a system of team-based care where people can work to the maximum of their scope.

“That could include physician assistants, in can also include nurse practitioners, it can include all members of the health care team,” she said.

Mowat said what is yet to be seen is how the legislation is going to be operationalized

“Who are these folks that are physician assistants? Where are they coming from? Because we don’t train physician assistants in this province. What does the licensing look like?” she asked.

The legislation will come into force upon proclamation, according to the province.

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