A citizens committee exploring opportunities for nurse practitioners in the Kootenay Boundary has formed with a keen eye on coverage in rural parts.
Fruitvale Coun. Larry Gray is one member sounding a voice for nurse practitioners, registered nurses with advanced training.
He said the new group would like to see nurse practitioners covering for doctors in rural hospitals like Kaslo and Nakusp to help with patient care and ultimately to relieve some pressure on doctors.
“It would be nice to see the ability for nurse practitioners to do some of the relief for doctors in hospitals, to take on maybe some home service work, to be able to supplement the programs in a way that’s a little bit more cost effective,” he added.
“A quick look at the doctor’s average salary of $350,000 and a nurse practitioner is not nearly as expensive and provides not the same quality of care, but can provide some care and do some things that doctors don’t have to do.”
A nurse practitioner can provide diagnosis, entry level treatment of common and chronic illness, referrals and follow-up and can even write prescriptions.
They can order and interpret the results of relevant screening and diagnostic lab tests such as an ultrasound or mammography, initiate the care process, monitor health outcomes and work in collaboration with other health care professionals.
B.C. is now the second province in Canada, behind Ontario, to give nurse practitioners admitting and discharging privileges.
The ministry said the provincial government introduced nurse practitioners in 2005, as a way to improve primary health-care services, and this past May announced $22.5 million in funding to pay for 190 nurse practitioners over the next three years.
In Greater Trail/ Castlegar there are four nurse practitioners and a fifth in the midst of recruitment, according to Linda Sawchenko, regional practice leader for Interior Health (IH).
She supports a variety of projects, one being the introduction of nurse practitioners across the Health Authority.
“I think nurse practitioners provide one of the solutions to good access to primary care and as we know there’s many of our population who have complex needs and one of the real benefits of a nurse practitioner is they are on a salary so they can spend a little bit more time with patients and really try to work with patients and their families around a comprehensive care plan,” she said.
“In our experience in all of the clinics in the Greater Trail area and Castlegar, having a nurse practitioner added to the practice has resulted in many more patients being able to access primary care and has not had, from our experience, any negative impact on physicians.”
The round-table discussion at the committee level sounds much different when looking at the entire region, indicated Gray.
He said in rural parts like Kaslo and Nakusp, doctors are reluctant to “sign off” for a nurse practitioner, when they actually cut into their patient list, or in other words pay.
The new committee will be connecting next month for their second meeting.