US-trained medics scheme raises ire among nurses
Nurses are up in arms about plans to bring United States-trained medics to New Zealand to fill rural vacancies.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) yesterday said they were "strongly" opposed to the further recruitment of US-trained physician assistants.
One such physician assistant is already working at a Hamilton medical centre, but three other Waikato practices (in Te Awamutu, Tokoroa and Huntly) are about to recruit them as well.
NZNO professional services manager Susanne Trim said these newly funded roles should be first offered to New Zealand-trained specialty registered nurses or nurse practitioners who did similar work.
“There is no evidence that the physician assistant role is necessary in New Zealand, nor has any analysis been made of the financial or wider workforce costs of introducing this new practitioner role," she said.
Policy-makers would be better off supporting nurses, and all existing health practitioners, before investing "scarce health dollars" in introducing physician assistants who had a narrowly focused role.
But Midlands Health acting chief executive Keriana Brooking said they would not be stopping their pilot programme, which general practice had shown a lot of interest in.
"We've got some current and future pressing needs in developing workforces to work in our communities . . . for us it's a question of being prepared to try new things and take new approaches."
She agreed nurse practitioners also had a place in rural practice.
One of the clinics they were putting a physician assistant in already had a nurse practitioner working. "So we don't see it as being one or the other."
Ms Brooking said both clinics were at the negotiating stage with their physician assistants, though a set start date was as yet unknown.
In July K'aute Family Medical GP Dr Leo Revell told the Times their US-trained physician assistant had helped to increase productivity by 50 per cent.
Physician assistants complete a five-year degree to gain a qualification close to that of a doctor.
They can formally examine patients, diagnose illness and injury and provide treatment. They cannot yet prescribe drugs in New Zealand.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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