The Medical and Dental Council has admonished Physician Assistants (PA) not to assume the role of medical doctors in order to avoid lawsuits and mishaps in healthcare delivery.
By law, Physician Assistants refer to three distinct groups of healthcare professionals trained in the medical model to practice medicine and dentistry under supervision.
They are P.A-medical also known as medical assistants; PA-Dental, also known as community oral health officers and PA-Anesthesia, also known as certified registered nurse anesthetists.
The council gave the admonishment when it inducted 538 newly qualified professionals in Accra who had met all the academic requirements.
They are expected to complete an additional one-year internship programme with any accredited health facility to be permanently placed on the professional register of the council.
Speaking at the induction ceremony in Accra yesterday[June 22, 2022], the Chairman of the Board of the Medical and Dental Council, Professor Paul Kwame Nyame, reminded the professionals that they were not medical doctors, and therefore, had to deliver on their mandate under strict supervision to enhance healthcare.
“Physician assistants are expected to examine, prescribe and request for diagnostic tests under the supervision of physicians or surgeons,” he said.
He said they could work independently, especially in rural areas without doctors, but ultimately under supervision.
Physician Assistants are not medical officers 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.
Scope of practice
Professor Nyame 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 Physician Assistants — Medical, Dental & Anesthesia.
He said the document spelt out the limit to which the PA could go, or what they could do and what they could not do.
“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,” he said.
He said the medical and dental council would closely monitor their adherence to the tenets of the document to avoid the professionals attracting legal suits.
He said the council had observed over the years that PAs with nursing background had added advantage in trading than those who took the course directly from senior high schools.
He said the council would, therefore, in the not-too-distant future, make post-basic qualification a prerequisite for entry into a PA training programme.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, in a speech read on his behalf, said the 538 newly qualified PAs would augment the current strength of about 6,642 PAs serving in various parts of the country.
He said in keeping with the high regard that society accorded to healthcare professionals, the society rightly expected a correspondingly high standard of professionalism and conduct.
“As a consequence, the object of Council as provided for in the Part II of the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act, 2013, (Act 857) is to secure in the public interest the highest standards in the training and practice of medicine and dentistry in Ghana.
“Regrettably, often the allure of specialised knowledge and success, if not properly managed, tend to result in bloated egos or inconsiderate conduct and may make one lose his humanity — the capacity to care,” he said.
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