TORONTO, June 28, 2012 – A set of recommendations released today promises Ontarians improved access to quality primary care, system integration and effectiveness, and cost savings for the government and taxpayers.
The recommendations are contained in a provincial Task Force report led by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) with representatives from key organizations that work in primary care. RNAO launched the Task Force in February in response to the gross under-utilization of primary care nurses, and the belief that the sustainability of Ontario’s health-care system depends on the success of primary care reform. “Our system is based on an illness model and we need to shift it to one that places greater emphasis on health promotion, disease prevention, and chronic disease management,” says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, president of RNAO, adding that “the full utilization of nurses is the key to our primary care success.”
Primary Solutions for Primary Care lists 20 recommendations and ambitious timelines to maximize and expand the role of Ontario’s 4,285 primary care nurses - Registered Nurses and Registered Practical Nurses - to eliminate the care gaps that prevent patients from receiving same day care and co-ordinated health system navigation.
The Task Force calls for its recommendations to be implemented in two phases. Phase one, to begin immediately, focuses on maximizing the current scope of practice of RNs and RPNs. Phase two, to be implemented over a two-year period from 2013 to 2015, looks at expanding the scope of practice for primary care nurses to further benefit patients and the health system.
Among the recommendations:
Primary care nurses work in Aboriginal health access centres, community health centres, family health teams, nurse practitioner-led clinics and physicians’ offices. A recent survey revealed that only 61 per cent of RNs in primary care work to their full scope, with most saying they are capable of doing much more.
“Our research revealed that RNs and RPNs who work in primary care nursing aren’t being utilized effectively. There is an incredible amount of untapped potential and we need to change that so nurses can do more for their patients and make our system more efficient,” says Judie Surridge, co-chair of the Task Force and president of the Ontario Family Practice Nurses.
Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of RNAO – who, along with Surridge, co-chaired the Task Force – says the leadership that resulted in Canada’s first nurse practitioner-led clinic in Sudbury in 2007 and 24 NP-led clinics five years later is exactly what needs to happen now with primary care nurses. “We commend the Ontario government for the bold action it took to expand the scope of practice of nurse practitioners so they can fully serve the public. It has benefitted patients in spades. Now, we need to do the same with RNs and RPNs. If RNs can prescribe in the UK, why not in Ontario?” says Grinspun, adding that “the changes proposed in the report are long overdue, and implementing the recommendations will lead to higher satisfaction and better health outcomes for patients, improved system effectiveness, and reduced costs for taxpayers.”
RNAO says the report’s recommendations are in line with what the Drummond Commission concluded about Ontario’s health system. Reiterating Don Drummond’s assertion that expanding the scope of practice of nurses is one way to guarantee the sustainability of the province’s publicly-funded, not-for-profit health system, RNAO is calling on the government, employers, associations, regulators, unions, and nurses themselves to act immediately on the Task Force’s recommendations to benefit Ontarians.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.
Download a copy  of the Task Force’s report.
Read what stakeholders had to say . Including: