Top News

Medical association upset with N.L. health minister’s comments on family physicians

The emergency department at Kings County Memorial Hospital will be closed Dec. 26, but will re-open Dec. 27 at 8 a.m.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is speaking out after comments made by Health Minister John Haggie this week suggesting nurse practitioners could be substituted for family physicians.

ST. JOHN’S, NL – Health Minister John Haggie’s revelation this week the provincial government could use nurse practitioners in place of family doctors isn’t sitting well with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA).

Haggie made the comments in a story published by CBC yesterday, Jan. 2.

In a news release today, the NLMA said it was “alarmed and very disappointed” by what Haggie had said about the scope of practice of family physicians.

“We are concerned that Dr. Haggie’s comments clearly indicate that this government has an agenda to reduce patient access to family doctors in this province,” said NLMA president Dr. Lynn Dwyer.

“His superficial remarks reveal he either misunderstands the role that family doctors play in the health care system or he has a complete disregard for the value of this profession. Either way, Dr. Haggie needs education on how family practice works in this province.”

Haggie told the CBC a large portion of the work carried out by family doctors can be done by nurse practitioners and, in some ways, produce better results.

“The biggest flaw in Dr. Haggie’s comments is that nurse practitioners are not substitutes for the role played by family doctors,” Dwyer said.

“Nurse practitioners and family doctors have overlapping scopes of practice and we both provide benefits to patients in multiple health care settings. We are unaware of any primary health care model where removing family physician results in better health outcomes.

“Frankly, to hear this from another physician who should know better is not only disappointing to the physicians of this province, it is also disturbing. The Minister of Health seems to think that family doctors and nurse practitioners are interchangeable professionals. They are not. The nurse practitioners I know want to work collaboratively with physicians, not be physician replacements.”

In the release, the NLMA stated its support for the move to collaborative team-based models of care consisting of family doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, psychologists, dieticians, occupational therapists, social workers and others.

The NLMA release stated the lack of government investment in primary health care teams has been burdensome for family doctors in the province. As a result, they have had to provide the majority of primary care services.

“The minister’s comments are part of an ongoing attack against family doctors in a province where it’s already hard enough to recruit and maintain an adequate supply,” Dwyer said.

“Whether it’s the ill-conceived flu shot decision, the lack of consultation on prescription monitoring, or these comments (this week), family doctors feel woefully undervalued and demoralized by the minister.

“At a time when the government and the NLMA are trying to improve family practice through the Family Practice Renewal Program, the Minister’s comments are so disrespectful that they undermine this very activity.”

Recent Stories