Physician Assistants Reject Retrogressive Health Bill

…By Medical and Dental Council, Set to Strike

The Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA) says it is vehemently opposed to the proposed Health Professions and Regulatory Bodies (Amended) Bill 2023, currently pending in Parliament.

The rejected bill, The Anchor gathered, is being spearheaded by the Medical and Dental Council (MDC), through the Ministry of Health, ostensibly, to render the Physician Assistants (PAs) useless on their job.

The association insists, the bill only seeks to reduce their work to nothing, because it “imposes medical doctors on us, frustrate efforts to grow and develop our profession.”

At an emotionally charged press conference yesterday, Wednesday July 19, 2023,led by the president of GPAA, Peter Akudugu Ayamba, and the general secretary, Peter Eyram Kuenyefu, the association said, aside from the bill not being in their interest, the Medical and Dental Council (MD) did not involve them in drafting it, as they were totally sidelined.

The GPAA is therefore calling for an urgent meeting with the various stakeholders, to cancel the moves to have the bill passed by the 8th Parliament, as they threatened to embark on an industrial action beginning next Monday, July 24.

“For these reasons we strongly oppose the proposed amendments and call for an urgent meeting with the MDC, GHS and the Ministry of Health, to stop this attempt,” it warned.

The PAs say their call if not heeded to, and the bill is passed in its current form, it will spell doom for members and total health service delivery system, especially in rural and poor communities.

“They are trying to reverse an established practice and make a bad situation worse. There already exists a supervisory model in the health system. A Physician Assistant does not have to call a supervising physician for directions before assessing a client, requesting for laboratory investigations, making a diagnosis and finally prescribing the required medicine(s) as treatment. If we need supervision, there are senior Physician Assistants who can supervise us,” they pointed out.

Additionally, the PAs explained, “the proposed amendment is also seeking to prevent us from signing medical forms, something which is already part of our work.”

They say the association became aware of the bill, when Speaker Alban Bagbin, on June 6, recalled Members of Parliament (MPs) to consider some bills which included the Health Professions and Regulatory Bodies Amendment Bill 2023.

According to them, “all attempts to get a copy of the Amendment Bill proved futile.”

The leadership of the association had to request a meeting with the ministry, which they were obliged on July 6, where a number of issues pertaining to physician assistants, including matters in connection with regulation of our practice under the Medical and Dental Council, and the proposed amendment to the Health Professions and Regulatory Bodies Act, 2013 (Act 857) were discussed.

At that meeting, the sector minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, “assured us that nothing has been confirmed yet and that he would ensure there is engagement to address whatever concerns we have. That notwithstanding, some few days ago, leadership intercepted the purported Amendment Bill.”

Despite the assurance by the minister, the association leadership says, days ago, it intercepted the purported Amendment Bill, but after going through it, it says the bill cannot be allowed to go through the process in Parliament for passage.

To get the relevant stakeholders to listen to their concerns, the GPAA says it is embarking on a number of actions, including a nationwide industrial strike by physician assistants (PAs), to drum home their displeasure against the MDC and other agencies under the Ministry of Health for their persistent inactions, which undermine the practice of PAs in the country.

And so, beginning Monday, July 24 to Wednesday 26, 2023, the association says it will withdraw all Out-Patient Department (OPD) services.

There will also be withdrawal of Emergency Services from Thursday July 27 to Monday 31 2023. Then lastly on Tuesday August 1 2023, they will intensify their actions by withdrawing all services, emergencies inclusive.

The physician assistants say their opposition to the bill is just one of the many unresolved issues that are gathering dust on the table and begging for attention.

They mentioned a number of these unresolved issues, saying “in four years, over two thousand five hundred (2,500) newly qualified PAs are sitting at home unemployed while many health facilities at the District Hospitals and sub-districts are in urgent need of clinicians to attend to sick patients.”

They are also unhappy with the MDC unilateral decision in 2022 to develop and launch a Scope of Practice document for only PAs which, they say, is a move to reduce the scope of their work and take away their existing autonomy.

“We have engaged the MDC, GHS and the MoH severally to find lasting remedies to all the issues outlined but it has not yielded any result.

“We strongly advocate for the creation of a new health regulatory body to regulate the training and practice of Physician Assistants in Ghana as seen in Kenya and some states in the United States of America,” the GPAA said.



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