Emergency departments that have been closing due to staff shortages across the province could soon get the help of physician assistants.   

In consultation with B.C.’s Ministry of Health, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) has posted a proposal for a bylaw change that would allow physicians assistants to work in emergency departments.

The consultation is seeking public feedback online for the next seven days, until Oct. 4, on the proposed changes.

If approved, the amended bylaw would allow physician assistants to work under the direction and supervision of physicians to provide a broad range of health services, as long as they register with CPSBC.

In a news release published on Sept. 27, Health Minister Adrian Dix said that the ministry and the College of Physicians have been working closely together to introduce physician assistants into emergency departments across the province.

“This will support health-care workers to provide services to patients and help patients access the services they need as we continue to build out team-based care across the healthcare system,” he said.

According to the release, there are approximately 30 to 50 physician assistants living in the province.

Emergency room closures have been quite frequent in Merritt. As of today, Sept. 27, Merritt’s Nicola Valley Hospital has closed 12 times due to lack of physicians or nurses, as the latest temporary closure announcement was on Sept. 25.

With the recurring ER closures, the City of Merritt said the issue would be addressed in a sub committee meeting composed by council members, the chief administrative officer (CAO) and fire chief to work together with Interior Health Authority on possible answers to the crisis.

“It’s time to work as a group, work together, with quarterly reports and try to support the doctors and nurses in town as much as possible, help them with retention, and get some people here,” Mayor Mike Goetz said to the Herald previously.

Regarding the proposal, Mayor Goetz said he requested earlier this year in February for physicians assistants as well as nurses practitioners to be allowed to work in the ER departments in order to assist with the closures.

“(I) have made the same request several more times since then and many other communities have also asked for this as well … just wish they would listen a bit sooner when communities make these requests” he said. “I hope this comes into effect.”

For those who wish to submit their comments on the proposal, you can submit it to:

College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia

Email: [email protected]

Fax: 604-733-3503


Ministry of Health

Director, Regulatory Initiatives

Professional Regulation and Oversight Branch

Email: [email protected] .