Our attention has been drawn to the proposed HEALTH PROFESSIONALS’ REGULATORY BODIES’ AMENDMENT BILL that is being sent to parliament for it to be considered and enacted as a law governing medical practice in Ghana. We, as Physician Assistant students, wish to state without any equivocation that we consider certain clauses in the amendment bill as derogatory as it undermines the practice of our profession. We also wish to state that we find the bill as a tool to dissolve the gains and efforts being made towards the achievement of the universal Healthcare coverage.
Physician Assistant formerly known as the medical assistant has being practicing medicine since 1960 without any supervision from any Medical Officers. They have being consulting, diagnosing and treating disease conditions well define by the National Health Insurance at level B which is the health center. They also make appropriate referral to Physicians based on the patient's condition, the standard of care and his or her level of experience.
The amended provisions of Sections 43 & 50 (Part Two) of the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies (Amendment) Bill 2019 undermine and seek to incapacitate Physician Assistants (thus 1004 health centres, sub-district level) by deleting the rights to decentralized autonomous medical and dental care (universal health coverage) to the already under-served rural communities and vulnerable populations.
We agree with the Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA) and the Graduate Physician Assistants Association of Ghana (GRAPAG) that It is very unjust and discriminatory to equate a registered practicing Physician Assistant to a house officer and exempt all from the rights conferred by registration. In essence, it is a clear message to the nation that the Physician Assistant is not needed within the healthcare setting and that the medical doctors can handle the growing number of patients who call at our various health centers.
In any case, the Physician Assistantship programmes being run in all the various tertiary institutions offer a full first degree program, after which the graduate is taken through a year of internship. Are we saying then that this is not enough for them to be autonomous prescribers? And because of that, for the over 2000 Physician Assistants in the 1004 health Centre’s across the nation, each should be supervised by a medical and dental practitioner? We still find it difficult to understand how these “practitioners” who have refused postings to the rural areas can supervise the work of the Physician Assistant. Will they do it in absentia?
Our practice is fully regulated by the MEDICAL AND DENTAL COUNCIL. They conduct licentiate exams biannually for those who pass out of the various accredited universities and colleges. The licentiate examination is designed to test the PA’s ability to practice medicine/dentistry safely in Ghana. The examination is set at the level of the final qualifying examinations of the Physician Assistant trainees. The examination assesses the candidate’s knowledge of clinical medicine/dentistry as well as his or her clinical competence and where indicated, the candidate’s proficiency in the English language.
If the amended provisions of section 43 and 50 of the health Professional Regutory bodies Bill 2019 is passed as an act, will make the PA incapable of practice. This bill will not motivate the practicing PA which will in turn increase referrals leading to hospital waiting hours.
In effect it will affect the vision of the national health insurance scheme in achieving universal health coverage for Agenda 2030.
In conclusion, we are aware of the grand scheme by the medical and dental council to denigrate our profession and create a monopoly for medical and dental practitioners. We are privy to some ill-treatments being meted out to some physician assistants by medical doctors at various health posts. We hereby humbly request that we put away all prejudices and collaborate to achieve universal health coverage for Ghana.
THIS BILL MUST NOT BE PASSED;THE PRESIDENT, AND HON. MINISTER FOR HEALTH MUST INTERVENE
WE ARE PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS AND NOT PHYSICIAN'S ASSISTANTS
AGYARE ERNEST ( PRESIDENT - PASAG NATIONAL)
(GENERAL SECRETARY-PASAG NATIONAL