The National Vice President of the Graduate Physician Assistants Association of Ghana, Mr. Dominic Tuffour has strongly asserted that Physician Assistants are fully capable of working independently without the supervision of medical doctors.
The association is considering going on strike in response to a proposed amendment of Act 857 of the Health Professionals Regulatory Bodies Act by the Ghana Medical and Dental Council (GMDC). This amendment would subject the profession of Physician Assistants to the direction and oversight of a Medical Doctor.
“They said we have to be supervised by doctors, hence we can’t work independently. We can’t prescribe drugs. They are bringing a scope of practice which says a Physician Assistant can’t practice medicine,” the Vice President lamented in an interview on Nkwantannanso with George Adjei on July 19.
He expressed the association’s frustration, claiming that the move by the GMDC stems from envy towards the Physician Assistants, who have demonstrated proficiency in diagnosis and drug prescription.
“It is because of the hatred. Because we know medicine, because the doctor is a jack of all trades but master of none, but Physician Assistants do one job which is to diagnose and prescribe and have become masters. In the past when we had diplomas instead of degrees, we were called medical assistants but we worked independently. But now that we have degrees, they want to supervise us,” he stated.
The Vice President further questioned the practicality of doctors being posted to villages and health centers where Physician Assistants are already in charge.
“My question is, in some villages, only Physician Assistants are there. Will these Physician Assistants have to come to the doctors in the hospitals to seek their opinions before prescribing medicine? Then the government should shut down these health centers and establish district hospitals.”
He highlighted that there is no precedent in any country where doctors supervise Physician Assistants. He emphasized his role as the Director of Finance for Physician Assistants worldwide, mentioning that in countries like Malawi, Physician Assistants are involved in performing surgeries.
According to him, no Physician Assistant has been posted since 2019, while doctors receive postings regularly.
Despite any perceived shortcomings, the Vice President urged the council to focus on making recommendations to improve the profession rather than restricting their autonomy.
The Ghana Physician Assistants Association has laid out a roadmap towards a planned industrial action at the end of this month.
The action will include a gradual withdrawal of services across various health facilities, with OPD services nationwide being withdrawn from July 24.
If their concerns remain unaddressed, emergency services will be withdrawn from July 27 to 31, and from August 1, they will completely withdraw their services.
Story by Adwoa S. Danso