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We Build Alaska

SB 115 is the right way to fix healthcare access in Alaska

As a dedicated member of the PA community and a medical practitioner deeply invested in Alaskan healthcare, I strongly support Senate Bill 115, which advocates for independent practice for physician assistants (PAs) after 4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice. This bill is crucial for improving healthcare access and quality in our state, particularly in underserved and rural areas.

Healthcare is rapidly evolving, with advancements in technology and treatment options demanding a more flexible and responsive system. PAs have become essential members of the healthcare team, often serving as the sole healthcare provider for their patients. Despite extensive training and a proven track record of delivering safe and effective care, current restrictions limit our ability to meet growing patient needs.

Opponents of SB 115, such as the Alaska State Medical Association, argue that independent PA practice raises concerns about patient safety and quality of care. These arguments overlook the extensive education and continuous professional development that PAs undergo. Studies have shown that PAs provide care comparable to physicians, often improving access without compromising quality. Opponents also neglect to mention PA leaders in Alaska have attempted to meet with physicians over the past four years to help collaborate but our efforts were not heard.

Unlike paralegals, who support lawyers, PAs frequently serve as a patients’ primary health care providers currently. The comparison of PA training to that of physicians fails to recognize the distinct and essential role PAs play in the healthcare system. Our training and experience equip us to handle a wide range of medical conditions and provide comprehensive care.

The argument that PAs should undergo additional training through medical school is impractical and ignores our unique role. SB 115 addresses these concerns by proposing independence after significant supervised clinical practice, ensuring PAs are well-prepared.

I urge the Alaska legislature to pass SB 115 and call on the community to support this bill by contacting their legislators. It is time to listen to our patients and support this crucial legislation for the betterment of Alaskan healthcare.

Christopher Dietrich is a certified physician assistant from Palmer. He serves as the medical director at Orion Behavioral Health Network and is one of the lead providers for substance use treatment at Banyan Treatment Center Wasilla, primarily serving veterans. Christopher is actively involved in education and community service, and in his free time, enjoys exploring Alaska’s wilderness and boating on Prince William Sound.

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Akwhitty
1 month ago

My Cousin is a PA. When she first started a Mexican came in to see her . He kept pointing to his erection. She gave him something and sent him home. Seems this Mexican shot coke in his dick and it was hard for a few days. Longshot is he dad to have it to removed because no blood circulation.
I know she feels bad.

Robert Saget
1 month ago

I’d like to comment on just a few flaws in this person’s argument: 1. “Unlike paralegals, who support lawyers, PAs frequently serve as a patients’ primary health care providers currently.” In most cases, a physician assistant’s role is to support (i.e. “assist”) a physician. It’s in their title. While many PAs do have their own patient panels, there is oversight from or collaboration with physicians in all instances. This collaboration ensures that medical care teams can address the growing needs of patients without sacrificing quality. It’s this oversight, which is essentially a double check on care quality, that PAs are… Read more »

C D
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Saget

Bob, this bill would be great if the experience hour requirements were higher (10,000-8,000 rather than 4,000 to be on par with other life-safety oriented fields: engineers, vets, architects, etc…). After an appropriate threshold – oversight is not what PAs need, but simply consultation to make the best decision which can also be with other peers. As you see in all licensed professions, additional school doesn’t make people better decision makers (you know the ones in your profession).

Robert Saget
1 month ago
Reply to  C D

The hour requirements in the bill do not come close to hour requirements for other health professionals who practice independently. However, hitting a specific threshold for hours worked is still insufficient to perform a job that you were not trained for. A veterinary assistant, for example, does not assume the role of a veterinarian after 10,000 hours of clinical experience. Vet assistants might be good decision-makers, but they haven’t trained for the job of veterinarian. If you want to be a vet, you go to vet school. Your last point is problematic. The insinuation is that you don’t actually need… Read more »

Tom Cho
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Saget

I think the bill has 6k hours now. The evidence shows that PAs with expanded practice have similar outcomes as physicians. Protectionist policy limits the team and I think that may be your bias or physician ego.

Also unless you’re a physician working with PAs or a PA, you would know that experienced PAs very rarely need the type of supervision you indicate and most physicians would find the need to collaborate very similar with their team when things fall outside the normal in a similar fashion.

Robert Saget
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Cho

I support protectionist policy when the group being protected is patients.

Tom Cho
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Saget

Bob, The evidence suggests you are not accurate in your analysis or understanding, also resorting to negative illusions of cosplay by PAs isn’t a good team approach for our patients: Cost-Effectiveness of Physician Assistants (PLOS One, November 2021): This systematic review analyzed international evidence on the effectiveness of Physician Assistants (PAs). It found that in 18 studies, PAs provided a quality of care exceeding that of physicians, and in 15 studies, their care was comparable. The study also highlighted the cost-effectiveness of PAs, noting lower costs in labor and education. Medical Malpractice and PA Practice Laws (Journal of Medical Regulation,… Read more »

Robert Saget
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Cho

Which is worse: alluding to cosplay, or legislation that allows it?

Please read the studies that you are citing and consider their quality and relevance to Alaska. Do you think a systematic review that includes outcomes of circumcisions performed in Africa (not even by PAs) justifies independent PA practice in Alaska? If not, why are you shopping it to legislators as an example of physician assistants providing quality of care “exceeding that of physicians”?

Rick G
1 month ago

I saw a PA when I couldn’t get an appointment in a reasonable amount of time with my doctor. I felt she was quite competent and I was not at all worried that she was “just” a PA and not an MD.