Ontario gives nurse practitioners expanded powers
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, April 9, 2011 12:46PM EDT
TORONTO - Expanding powers for nurses inside Ontario hospitals will save taxpayers money and get patients home sooner, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday.
McGuinty, who has been trailing in public opinion polls, received no less than eight standing ovations during a speech to the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario when he promised additional powers for nurse practitioners.
They will be allowed to start discharging patients this July, and will be able to admit patients to hospitals starting in July 2012.
"You know it's amazing how much our nurses can do for us if we only let them do it," said McGuinty. "I'm proud of the fact we are putting ourselves at the forefront really in North America in terms of expanding the lawful authority of nurses."
Nurse practitioners can already admit, treat and discharge patients in emergency rooms and those who are in primary care, but only doctors can discharge patients who are in hospital.
The nurses' lobby had urged the government to give nurse practitioners the power to admit and discharge patients to help ease congestion, and prevent patients from being stuck in hospital on a weekend if they don't see a doctor on Friday.
Ontario will become the first province to give nurse practitioners the additional authority.
"When our government allows nurses to do those kinds of things, we free up doctors to do things that only doctors can do," said McGuinty. "It's just introducing more efficiency into the system. It comes at a lower cost ultimately to taxpayers, and patients love it."
McGuinty first promised to consider giving nurse practitioners the power to admit and discharge patients when he spoke to the same nurses' group last year.
Doris Grinspun, executive director of the nurses' association, praised McGuinty for addressing so many of their concerns over the years that her list of demands has been nearly exhausted.
"You're putting nursing where it belongs, and you're putting nursing in a way that will allow us to change medicare from inside, and that will make medicare more effective and yes, more efficient," said Grinspun. "So with that I have a new list, so this needs to continue, and the next (goal) will be RN prescribing."
The nurses leapt to their feet when McGuinty spoke about his government's moves to put the chief nursing officer on hospital boards and to appoint a chief nursing officer in each public health unit.
"I take that as a celebration of the progress that we've been able to make together," said McGuinty. "It's real, and it's measurable, and it's felt by those people who work on the front lines, and I'm proud of that progress."
However, the Progressive Conservatives said too many health dollars are taken away from front-line care to pay for bureaucrats and big salaries.
"If Dalton McGuinty really cared about nurses and front-line health care, he wouldn't have wasted $250 million on (local health) bureaucracies," said Opposition critic Jim Wilson. "Patients and the front-line health care professionals should be the priority and the focus, not paperwork and not bureaucrats."
The province passed legislation in 2009 that would broaden the scope of practice for nurse practitioners, dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists to reduce congestion in emergency rooms.