Eight months after Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann announced a plan to give more power to nurse practitioners, she’s tabled a bill in the National Assembly to make it happen.
Bill 43, once passed, will give nurse practitioners power to diagnose certain conditions and come up with a treatment plan without the supervision of a family doctor.
McCann said that this move will bring Quebec’s health network in line with most other Canadian provinces and help to decrease wait times in the public system.
“More patients will have access to first-line services,” she told CBC’s Let’s Go. “It’s going to unclog the services in the hospitals.”
McCann said these nurses undergo seven years of training (two years more than nurse clinicians and the same amount as many family doctors).
She said once the bill becomes law, nurse practitioners will be able to treat patients dealing with problems like high cholesterol, asthma and hypertension.
They will also be able to follow low-risk pregnancies. If passed, the impact of these changes could be seen as early as spring 2020, McCann said.
An effort to unclog the public system
There are more than 550 nurse practitioners working in health centres across the province, with 200 more set to graduate next year.
As it stands, she said, nurse practitioners have to be supervised by a family physician, and patients are required to follow up with a doctor 30 days after visiting a nurse practitioner.
McCann said the government is projecting this change will free up about 25 per cent of nurse practitioners’ time, and free up physicians’ time as well.
“This time will be used by the family physicians and the nurse practitioners to see more patients,” said McCann.
She described the bill as a “reform of access” that “should have been done many years ago.”
The previous Liberal government also sought to give more power to nurse practitioners, long hailed as a solution to the province’s health care woes.
Former Health Minister Gaétan Barrette made changes in 2018 to allow nurse practitioners to diagnose six chronic diseases, but a doctor still needed to then confirm the diagnosis.
He also hoped to have 2,000 nurse practitioners working across the province by 2025, a figure McCann has repeated.
In a statement, the Quebec Order of Nurses welcomed the news with open arms.
“It’s excellent news for the nursing profession and the population,” said the order’s president, Luc Mathieu. “It serves as a long-awaited recognition of the competence and expertise of [nurse practitioners].”