TORONTO — Ontario will move ahead with plans to allow many health-care professionals who aren’t doctors to provide more services, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday.
Legislation will be introduced “soon” that will permit pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physiotherapists to do more for patients, such as write prescription refills or order diagnostic tests, he said.
“People needing a prescription refill would be able to make one trip to the pharmacist instead of two trips — one to the doctor and then one to the pharmacist,” McGuinty said Friday in remarks prepared for a speech to the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.
Instead of waiting in an emergency room, patients could get an X-ray ordered by a physiotherapist or a broken bone set by a nurse practitioner, he added.
“These changes are all about putting more tools in the hands of people who are on the front lines of health-care delivery,” he said.
“Because when patients get timely care, not only is it good for them, our whole health-care system runs smoother and makes more efficient use of limited resources.”
The government has mused before about providing more powers to pharmacists and nurses, but sources say the legislation will affect a broad range of regulated professions, including dieticians, midwives, respiratory therapists and even dentists.
The legislation will likely be introduced in May.
The move is intended to ease congestion in the province’s crowded emergency rooms and provide other alternatives if patients don’t have a doctor.
An estimated 850,000 people in Ontario don’t have a family doctor.
Removing the legislative barriers to nurse practitioners and other professionals will allow them to use their skills more widely, said Doris Grinspun, executive director of the nurses’ association.
“It’s absolutely essential at a time when we’re trying to achieve a better and more timely access to health services,” she said.
“The details, of course, are what matters.”