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Ford Government Explores Integrating Nurse Practitioners into Public Healthcare

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In response to the proliferation of fee-based clinics across Ontario, sources within the Ford government have revealed to Global News their exploration of methods to incorporate nurse practitioners into the public healthcare system, akin to physicians. This move comes amidst escalating complaints about privately-run clinics, stirring concerns across the province.

Government insiders disclosed to Global News that Ontario is advocating for federal intervention to mandate all provinces to include nurse practitioners within their public healthcare framework. Health Minister Sylvia Jones is poised to articulate this stance in a forthcoming communication to her federal counterpart.

Perceived as a preventative measure, the government contends that a federal directive would forestall a fragmented system that might entice nurse practitioners from Ontario to relocate to other provinces.

“A national-level solution is imperative to prevent nurse practitioners from migrating,” emphasized a government source. “We need the federal government to mandate all provinces and territories to address this issue, allowing each to tailor the integration within their respective healthcare systems.”

Recent months have seen an emergence of over a dozen health clinics led by nurse practitioners offering an array of services, ranging from urgent care to mental health assessments, often for considerable fees.

While the Canada Health Act stipulates the funding of medically essential services within the country’s single-payer model, nurse practitioners presently operate as employees rather than independent entities within the healthcare system.

The Ford government attributes this discrepancy to a federal loophole enabling nurse practitioners to operate outside regulated healthcare legislation and levy fees for services typically covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

Addressing the predicament has proven more intricate than anticipated, with private nurse practitioners querying the absence of funding. Nurse practitioner-led clinics have been integrated into Ontario’s healthcare system since 2011, initially greenlit by the Liberal government, with subsequent funding allocated by the Ford administration.

Despite recent funding injections, delays in approving additional clinics have sparked frustration among nurse practitioners, prompting some to establish fee-based practices.

“We’re filling the gaps in primary care access,” remarked Chris Savard, owner of Holistic Solutions, a fee-for-service clinic in Hamilton. “But we’re perplexed as to why our clinics remain unfunded despite repeated requests.”

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) asserts that approximately 100 proposals for publicly funded clinics are pending government approval, advocating for additional funding to rectify the situation.

The Ford government, however, views the matter as multifaceted, seeking a sustainable resolution to ensure nurse practitioners’ integration into the public healthcare system.

Minister Jones has initiated consultations within the civil service to explore viable pathways for nurse practitioners’ inclusion. Meanwhile, Ontario is lobbying for federal guidance, funding, and a transitional period for implementation.

The government anticipates that nationwide directives would mitigate interprovincial competition and secure additional funding to support the integration of nurse practitioners into the public healthcare system, thereby fostering equitable healthcare access across the province.

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