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You deserve to see a doctor

We know there is an urgent need to increase access to care for patients across Ontario. We have consistently advocated to government for policy, legislation and funding that encourages collaborative, physician-led team-based care that ensures every regulated health professional can work to their full scope of practice. Ontario’s doctors value the vital contributions that other health-care professionals bring to the team in every setting.

However, we are concerned that many of the government’s recent decisions to increase the scope of practice for other regulated health-care providers are fragmenting an already fractured health-care system and risking the long-term well-being of patients. This approach is flawed.

Quick fixes such as adding prescribing, assessment and diagnostic and other clinical responsibilities to professions that do not have the same education, training and experience as physicians can lead to patient safety issues and worse outcomes for all. 

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Patients deserve care led by physicians — doctors are the foundation of the health-care system and can’t be replaced.

A graphic shows the differences in education, residency and training for physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.Doctors are the foundation of the health-care system and can’t be replaced. Patients deserve care led by physicians — the most highly educated, trained and skilled health-care professionals.

The government should be investing in team-based primary care where physicians and other health-care workers each have a unique role, complementing one another in providing comprehensive care. Rather than expanding scope of practice, we should focus on enabling all health-care professionals to fully utilize their competencies, knowledge and skills to provide high quality, safe and evidence-based care.

We are working to protect the practice of medicine against scope of practice encroachment that may threaten patient safety.

Over the past few years, we have consistently raised concerns about the Ontario government’s choice to allow inappropriate scope of practice expansion for pharmacists, midwives, naturopaths, chiropodists and others.

Pharmacists, for example, are not taught to diagnose or provide care for patients over their lifetime. They are now prescribing medications and antibiotics for what are deemed “minor” conditions. However, there is nothing minor or uncomplicated about conditions like UTIs, dysmenorrhea, or conjunctivitis. In fact, they could be symptoms of serious and time-sensitive health problems, especially if misdiagnosed or mistreated. While pharmacists are experts in their field, they are not trained to make a diagnosis.

The shortage of doctors and long wait times to receive the care patients need should not be solved by substituting skilled physicians with health-care professionals with fewer years of training and medical expertise. Patient safety, not convenience, should always come first. This kind of substitution also pulls skilled health-care professionals away from the jobs they are trained to do. Doctors working together with other health professionals as a team will mean better care for patients.

We need a system that ensures people are receiving the best our health-care professionals have to offer that also supports Ontario’s doctors to play their fundamental lead role in providing safe and effective patient care in every community across the province.