Montreal

Quebec health minister wants to give nurse practitioners more power

Danielle McCann said the change would allow nurse practitioners to use their full set of skills. But the proposal faces resistance from doctors' groups.

Danielle McCann wants to bring Quebec in line with other provinces, but plan faces resistance from doctors

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann is planning legislative changes within the next year to give nurse practitioners more power. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann wants to give specialized nurse practitioners the power to diagnose certain chronic illnesses to help alleviate the backlog in the province's health system.

In an interview, McCann said the change would allow nurse practitioners to use their full set of skills while freeing up doctors to do other work.

As it stands, she said, nurse practitioners have to be supervised by a family physician, and patients are required to follow up with a doctor 30 days after visiting a nurse practitioner.

"We want to change that. In all of Canada, nurse practitioners have more autonomy," she said Monday. 

McCann said she wants them to be able to treat patients dealing with problems like high cholesterol, asthma and hypertension.

"They are trained to do that," she said.

McCann said she has been in talks with the Quebec's College of Physicians about the issue and that she wants to make the change — which will require modifying provincial legislation — in the next year. 

The proposal is already facing resistance from doctors' groups.

Dr. Louis Godin, head of Quebec's federation of general practitioners, said he has questions about the proposal and stressed that diagnostics is something for which doctors have specific training.

"We'll see. We want to make sure the competence of doctors is respected," he said on Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin.

There are more than 400 nurse practitioners working in clinics and hospitals across the province.

The previous Liberal government also sought to give more power to nurse practitioners, long hailed as a solution to the province's health care woes.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette made changes last year to allow nurse practitioners to diagnose six chronic diseases, but a doctor needed to then confirm the diagnosis. He also hoped to have 2,000 nurse practitioners working across the province by 2025.

McCann said she's also looking at compensating doctors for treatment they provide by phone or internet in an effort to encourage more efficient treatment for minor ailments and prescription renewals.

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