Some N.L. health-care professionals still wondering how they fit into province's new plan

·3 min read
A plan to address a doctor shortage in Newfoundland was unveiled earlier this month by Health Minister John Haggie. The plan made little mention of nurse practitioners and pharmacists, who say they are prepared to step up. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
A plan to address a doctor shortage in Newfoundland was unveiled earlier this month by Health Minister John Haggie. The plan made little mention of nurse practitioners and pharmacists, who say they are prepared to step up. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Two groups of health-care workers in Newfoundland and Labrador say they've been left out of the provincial government's plan to address a doctor shortage in the province.

The province's nurse practitioners and pharmacists say they're still waiting to learn how they fit into the picture.

"We're still sort of waiting for a little bit more information," Kari Brown, vice-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurse Practitioner Association, told The St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.

Health Minister John Haggie unveiled the plan earlier this month, introducing a series of new measures aimed at improving access to primary care and attracting doctors to the province. The plan also includes promoting collaborative health clinics across the medical field, something Haggie says can improve access in the short term.

But Brown said the association hasn't been able to meet with Haggie.

CBC
CBC

Brown said there is a misunderstanding of the role nurse practitioners can play in the health system, and a mistaken belief that nurse practitioners are second-rate compared with other health professionals.

"I've been working and caring for patients in my field longer than some of the people who are questioning my expertise have been alive," she said. "But it is very bizarre for any other profession to be concerned about my entry-level competence.

"It's not about us. It's the people that we care for."

'We all want the same thing'

Janice Audeau, president of the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, and St. John's family physician Dr. Mari-Lynne Sinnott said they've also heard talk of the idea of a potential turf war between physicians and nurse practitioners, but say all health-care professionals are on the same team.

"I think a lot of it has stemmed from the messaging of our minister for health for the last several years, as there's been multiple attempts at advocacy around the gaps in primary care and what's turned into what we understand to be a crisis." Sinnott said.

"His response has been overwhelmingly lacklustre with a concerted effort to not address the lack of primary care physicians instead of focused discussions about expanding scopes."

"Ultimately, we all want the same thing," Audeau added. "We want to see our patients do better with better care. A lot of people believe it's a turf war, who's the best person to do x, y, z … and when you speak to the health-care professionals involved, that's really not our attitude."

Brian McHugh/CBC
Brian McHugh/CBC

All three medical professionals say they're eager to meet with Haggie to share their thoughts and ideas but have hadlittle to no response from the provincial government.

Haggie says there are conversations happening.

"Sitting and sort of chatting it through is where we need to be, not looking for fights. The important thing is to figure out where the solutions are," Haggie said. "[Nurse practitioners and pharmacists] are crucial. Collaborative teams depend on the right mix of practitioners working to their full scope of practice."

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