The Assembly last week voted unanimously to approve a bill to allow California nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants to supervise medical assistants, even when physicians are not on the premises.
SB 352 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) expands the authority of mid-level practitioners, but Assembly member Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park), who presented the bill on the Assembly floor Thursday, said it does not expand scope of practice for anyone.
"This bill specifically requires the express permission of a supervising doctor," Gordon said, "and does not expand the scope of nurse practitioners and physician assistants."
The measure already passed a Senate floor vote, and now will head back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. It passed the Assembly on a 69-0 vote.
The need for the measure is clear, Gordon said: "In coming years, the demand for primary care is anticipated to grow dramatically. California's primary care infrastructure is already strained under current conditions, leaving many people to wait long periods of time to receive medical attention," he said.
By barring medical assistants from performing clinical tasks when a physician is out of the building, Gordon said, California is limiting the effectiveness of medical facilities.
"Medical assistants are an important part of the team-based medical staff," Gordon said. "They help facilitate efficient patient flow, decrease wait times and increase capacity to see additional patients, at cost savings for the practice."
Without the bill, he said, medical clinics will see more backlogs and "extensive wait times for patients," he said.
"MA's have worked successfully with NP's and PA's in free and community clinics since 2001, with no reported harm," Gordon said.