System frustrating us - Physician assistants
The Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA) has accused the Ghana Medical and Dental Council of deliberately undermining the role of the physician assistants in healthcare delivery in the country through “some obnoxious regulations”.
The association claimed that recent happenings suggested that the council was trying to restrict the physician assistants and reduce some of the work they had been doing in the past.
The association claimed that even the curriculum for physician assistants had been reviewed by the council such that some of the things that they were taught in the past that enabled them to perform certain functions had been taken away.
The association consequently wants to break away from the council to get a new regulatory body to oversee the activities of their members in the country.
Speaking to the media after the opening ceremony of the 19th Annual General Meeting of the association in Kumasi, the President of the GPAA, Emmanuel Yaw Appiah, said members of the association were not happy about what the council was doing, and that their members “want an exit from the Medical and Dental Council so that we can get our own regulatory body” in order to stop the conflicts between the association and the council.
“The council is not ready to help these cadre of professionals, so for that matter, we need an exit from the council so that we can get our own regulatory authority that understands and recognises us,” he stressed.
According to Mr Appiah, the council introduced a new Scope of Practice (SoP) to guide the activities of the physician assistants, and that in that SoP, “some of the things we were taught to do in the past have been removed from it”.
He said the new SoP was more or less trying to reduce the scope of the work PA in an era where the demand for physician assistants was becoming higher.
For instance, he said, physician assistants had been treating urinary tract infection (UTI) in pregnancy for a long time without any complications, “but now they say we should refer those cases and not treat them”.
He said if the council had any problem with physician assistants treating UTI in pregnancy, the best they could do was to build the capacity of the personnel to better handle those cases rather than stopping them.
“We don’t know what is happening; whether some people have formed a cartel to bring this group down, we don’t know,” he lamented.
Mr Appiah said there were numerous challenges facing the profession, including the lack of career progression and further studies.
He said once a physician assistant was out of school to join the profession, there was no clear cut career progression and courses to pursue to upgrade one’s self.
He said even when some of the members had specialised in other fields, “there is no recognition for them and no promotion”.
Besides that, he said, there was a large number of physician assistants who had graduated but were sitting at home because there was no financial clearance to employ them.
Meanwhile, he said, other professionals within the medical field were being given financial clearance by the government to be employed.
Mr Appiah said they believed that the physician assistants were not being treated fairly, and appealed to the government to give clearance for the employment and posting of their members to the sub-district level to assist in healthcare delivery.
He said the association was not oblivious of the financial challenges facing the country, but was of the view that the distribution of the manpower in the health sector should be done equally such that one profession “does not feel left out as is currently the case”.
Know your role
Oheneba Prof. Boachie Adjei, the Hiahene of Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, advised the members of the association to know their role within the medical field to stick to it.
He acknowledged the important role physician assistants played in the healthcare delivery of the country, particularly in the rural areas, and said without them, many of the sub-district health facilities would not be functional.
That notwithstanding, he said there was a limit to what they could do.