Ontario wants to broaden the scope of practice for many health-care professionals as part of a strategy to address the chronic shortage of doctors.

Under legislation introduced yesterday, dentists would be able to fill prescriptions, pharmacists would be allowed to write refills for prescriptions, and physiotherapists would be given the power to order X-rays and treat injuries.

The proposed changes will make Ontario’s health-care system more efficient and more accessible, Premier Dalton McGuinty said.

“It will free up doctors to do those kinds of things which only doctors can do,” he said.

An estimated 850,000 people in Ontario don’t have a family doctor.

McGuinty said adding new responsibilities to a host of different health-care professionals doesn’t mean the government will be offering them additional pay.

The Ontario College of Pharmacists said it was “very pleased” with the proposed legislation.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario called the bill “a good first step,” but said the changes don’t go far enough because the government bowed to pressure from a powerful doctor’s lobby.

“To me, this is catering to the Ontario Medical Association,” said RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun.

“If the province is serious about increasing access to health services and decreasing wait times, it is imperative that nurse practitioners be able to admit and discharge in in-patient settings.”

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