Substitute House Bill (HB) 177 would allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to practice independently without a collaboration agreement with a physician, during the COVID-19 state of emergency and would allow a physician assistant (PA) practicing in a facility like a hospital to provide emergency care during a state of emergency. The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) President Anna McMaster, MD, has submitted written testimony to the members of the House Health Committee opposing Sub. HB 177 on behalf of the 5,200 family physician, family medicine resident, and medical student members of the OAFP.
Dr. McMaster’s testimony states, in part:
“On May 19, 2020, an analysis by the Commonwealth Fund found that visits to primary care doctors declined by as much as 60% since the COVID-19 outbreak. During this downturn in patient visits, hospital systems and the house of medicine prepared office-based physicians to deploy to hospitals by keeping those physicians abreast of COVID-19 updates.”
“Furthermore, emergency department visits are down 50%. The Medical Group Management Association estimates that 60% of physicians’ offices furloughed staff and 36% laid off workers as of early May because of postponement of elective care and patients cancelling office visits due to fear of COVID-19 exposure. On May 8, 2020, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 1.4 million health care jobs disappeared in April.”
“With patient volume down so substantially, it doesn’t make sense that scope expansion for APRNs and PAs is an emergency or desperately needed. In fact, the need is contraindicated. Statistics show that capacity already exists and expanding the scope of APRNs and PAs isn’t necessary. Ohioans flattened the curve. The surge did not materialize. And, even if the surge had materialized, or COVID-19 resurges in the future, patients are entitled to, deserve and expect the high standard of care provided by physician-lead teams.”
“While I have the highest respect for the vital role APRNs and PAs play in physician-led health care teams, I can’t help but remember the words, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Is this pandemic an opportunity to advance long-standing advocacy objectives rather than a response to a real need? A solution in search of a problem? Under no circumstances should patient care and safety be compromised.”
“If appropriate, high-quality patient care is the goal for the citizens of Ohio during a pandemic, Substitute House Bill 177 should not be enacted. Please vote no.”
Hearings in the House Health Committee continue next week.