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North Vancouver specialists say hiring physician assistants would reduce ever-growing waitlists


As an internal medicine specialist, Dr. Yashar Tashakkor sees between 35 and 40 patients per day.

“We focus on the co-morbidities that many patients have, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes,” said Tashakkor, who added his waitlist is growing despite his heavy workload. “There is more demand for internal medicine physicians like myself, and the number of referrals have increased significantly.”

That’s also the case for urologist Dr. Chris Hoag, who, like Tashakkor, works in North Vancouver.

“Many patients will tell you they get referred to a specialist and they wait and they wait and they wait, and they don’t know when they will be seen. And that’s because our waitlists are huge and growing,” said Hoag.

The two specialists are joining other doctors in calling on the province to hire more physician assistants.

“I agree with my colleagues who are advocating for this. I think that under the right supervision, physician assistants can help specialists become more efficient and see more patients,” said Tashakkor.

“Some of the things they are able to do is, for example, call patients with results of blood work or investigations, reassure them that it is all normal. This is something that still needs to be done, and takes our time, but could be safely allocated to someone else.”

Dr. Hoag agrees.

“If I could improve my efficiency by having that additional person to be able to see patients alongside me, or when I am occupied doing other activities, like in the operating room, that would enormously improve the efficiency of my ability to serve the patients being referred to me,” said Hoag.

When asked about the specialists' pleas, Health Minster Adrian Dix said “The issue with respect to physician assistants is primarily an issue of supply.”

B.C. doesn’t currently train physician assistants and they’re difficult to recruit from other jurisdictions. So the small number that are working in the province are based in emergency rooms.

“We wanted to have the most significant impact when we were making this decision, and that’s why we are focusing on the ERs. It’s an excellent place where they can make a maximum contribution,” said Dix.

Tashakkor said he’s happy to see physician assistants working in emergency departments, and hopes specialist offices are next.

“It would help reduce up to 30 per cent of our workloads, which allows us to not only see emergency patients, but also see more patients on a regular basis,” he said, adding it could finally put a dent in growing specialist waitlists. Top Stories

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