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Nurse practitioners happy with referral changes, disappointed with budget

THUNDER BAY - After a 14-year process, nurse practitioners across Ontario say they’re now finally able to help patients get faster access to the care they need.
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Nurse practitioners are pleased with a provincial government decision to grant them authority to refer patients to specialists, though disappointed with the recently released budget. (Nicole Dixon, for tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY - After a 14-year process, nurse practitioners across Ontario say they’re now finally able to help patients get faster access to the care they need.

A recent provincial government decision gave the NPs the authority to refer patients to specialists. The inability to make those referrals was seen by many as a roadblock in Ontario’s health-care delivery system.

But despite that recent news, many nurse practitioners were left disappointed with the Liberal government’s provincial budget.

“The Liberal government has met with the NPAO before the last election, and had made promises to address retention and recruitment issues,” said Tannice Fletcher, President of the Nurse Practitioners' Association of Ontario, during a recent visit to Thunder Bay.

“Then the budget was released. We are very disappointed in the Liberal government’s decision not to address primary health-care compensation."

These and other topics were up for discussion late last week when nurse Practitioners from across the city gathered at the Lakehead Nurse Practitioner-LED Clinic.

The government had met with the Nurse Practitioners' Association of Ontario prior to the last election. NPAO officials believed at that time they had been given reassurances that compensation, and retention and recruitment issues would be addressed.

Fletcher added that there are other issues waiting for the government to sign off on, which includes diagnostics, the inability for an NP to order CT's among other kinds of tests.

Despite the disappointment, Fletcher was quick to point out the progress is being made, and that the ability to make referrals to specialists is still a major step forward.

Fletcher hopes the recent meeting among NPs in Thunder Bay will motivate members to be able to make some positive changes for their patients.



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