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NPs Closer to Restricting Unsafe Drivers

Province authorizes nurse practitioners to restrict unsafe drivers, association says

The Sarnia-based president-elect of Ontario’s nurse practitioner association is praising provincial changes being made to cut red tape.

Wendy McKay was referring to an item in the recently passed Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act that gives the province’s 2,500 nurse practitioners the same power as doctors to restrict patients, deemed unfit to drive for medical reasons, from getting behind the wheel.

Previously, only physicians could fill out the forms, she said.

“Which puts nurse practitioners in a very difficult spot, because if I see somebody who’s unsafe to drive, we talk to them, then they have to see the physician, then this physician has to see the form, send it to the Ministry of Transportation,” she said.

It’s just the latest in a series of already-made and soon-expected changes to the rules governing nurse practitioners in Ontario, McKay said.

Another change that took effect last month has seen OHIP expanded to cover nurse-practitioner referrals to specialists.

In the past, nurse practitioners were handcuffed into getting doctors’ signatures, because specialists wouldn’t get paid for referrals otherwise, McKay said.

“But the reports would come back to the physician instead of to the nurse practitioner, so it just created a lot of office chaos,” she said.

Now, she said, all that has been simplified and the patients she cares for have their information sent back to her instead of a doctor who’s never seen them before.

“So I can do the appropriate followup and nothing gets missed or slips between the cracks with that,” McKay said.

Those two items are among several Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has pledged to act on in the “Better Care. Better Value.” Nurse Practitioners of Ontario policy paper published in advance of last year’s provincial election, McKay said.

One of the more pressing outstanding issues is giving nurse practitioners in the community commensurate pay with those in hospital and community care access centre jobs, she said.

In some cases, she said, the gap is as much as 30%, noting the disparity has contributed to one in five nurse practitioner positions going unfilled across Ontario.

“We’re excited that the (Health) Ministry, they’ve agreed they need to address it,” McKay said. “Especially when the emphasis of the moment is on primary care, moving people out of the hospital and caring for them in the community as soon as possible, which is better for the patient.”

Sarnia has about 20 nurse practitioners, she said, and is home to one of the province’s 25 nurse practitioner-led clinics.


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