Australia Top Doc: Physician Assistant Use Too Risky

A plan to introduce some physician assistants to the country’s health system has Australian Medical Association president Rosanna Capolingua very upsetabout patient safety, of course. THE head of Australia’s peak medical body has criticised a plan to introduce US-style physicians’ assistants who would carry out less complex medical procedures, saying it puts patients at greater risk and could deny junior doctors training opportunities. Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson yesterday released the five sites for a pilot program to train doctors’ assistants, who would perform the procedures under the guidance of a qualified doctor. The pilot is based on a scheme developed in the US and has been trialled in countries including Canada and Britain. Australian Medical Association president Rosanna Capolingua said that, although assistants would work under a doctor’s supervision at all times, their use in surgical procedures could compromise patient safety. “The physician’s assistant understands how to do the task and they may be useful as a ‘tool’ but, for our own junior doctors, they need to have that holistic training and experience as well,” she said. “Patient safety must always be our first priority, not just the delivery of a service to a patient.” Doesn’t sound like Dr. Capolingua is going tomake a great teammate. The nurses aren’t thrilled, either. Beth Mohle from the Queensland Nurses Union said the Government should spend the money expanding the role of existing nursing staff. “They’re not actually testing physicians’ assistants against positions like nurse practitioners,” she said. “If you’re going to have a trial, you should actually at least test those positions against currently existing positions such as nurse practitioners.” Sounds like the beginning of a major turf war. Or it would be if it wasn’t all about patient safety.

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