The Medical and Dental Council has inducted into its fold 349 newly qualified Physician Assistants to boost healthcare.
However, the council explained that their induction was a provisional admission into the practice of medicine and dentistry as they would become permanent members after they had completed the mandatory one-year internship with an accredited health facility.
They were, therefore, issued with provisional certificates to give them the legal authority to commence their internship.
They are made up of three distinct groups of healthcare professionals described by law as Physician Assistants (PAs).
They comprise PA Medicine practitioners trained in the medical model to practise as medical assistants; PA Dental, previously known as Community Oral Health Officers, and PA Anesthesia, also previously known as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists.
While a supervision regime exits, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has charged the council to make the development of a well-structured supervision model its priority for this year.
Work within scope
At the induction ceremony in Accra yesterday, a member of the council, Dr Constance Addo-Yobo, cautioned the new professionals to work within the scope of their mandate and not assume the roles of medical doctors.
She said the PAs were expected to examine, prescribe and request for diagnostic tests, under the supervision of physicians or surgeons.
“Physician Assistants are not medical doctors but rather a middle level cadre of healthcare providers. PAs can work independently, especially in rural areas with or without doctors but ultimately working under supervision,” she said.
Dr Addo-Yobo, on their scope of practice, said the council had recently spent a lot of time engaging stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive scope of practice document for all categories of PAs.
She said the document spelt out the limit to which the PAs could go.
“Referral is important when you realise that your case management goes beyond your capabilities.
“Your training should allow you to recognise cases that are not within your scope but you should be able to provide initial treatment for the relief of pain and then refer to the nearest hospital that can manage the case effectively,” she said.
Dr Addo-Yobo said the Medical and Dental Council would closely monitor their adherence to the tenets of the document to avoid the professionals attracting legal suits.
Dr Addo-Yobo, who is a former Chief Dental Officer, MoH, said the council had observed over the years that PAs with nursing background had added advantage in training and practice compared to those who took the course right after senior high school.
Therefore, the council was considering making a post basic nursing qualification a prerequisite for entry into a PA training soon.
A Deputy Minister of Health, Mahama Asei Seini, said the ministry was pleased to welcome the 349 PAs into their fold to augment the work of the already 6,402 PAs in the system to improve access and quality of healthcare towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage.
Considering the numerous appalling news of bad conduct exhibited by some healthcare professionals, he cautioned the new professionals to eschew negligence in their care for delicate human lives.
“Any keen follower of the healthcare sector would have noticed that recent media reportage is replete with claims of professional negligence, improper conduct and unethical behaviour by our healthcare providers, the very people who openly swore an oath and committed themselves to serve the public in our most vulnerable states now our abusers. This is unacceptable,” Mr Seini said.
The deputy minister said in accordance with the ministry’s focus on issues of professional and institutional accountability, the council was to delimit the areas of practice that were appropriate to the level of training of all registered practitioners.
To that end, the Dental and Medical Council had developed scope of practice guidance for the PAs to ensure they practiced within their competency levels befitting their training.