Massachusetts gives PAs, residents practice flexibility

Under orders from Gov. Charlie Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Jan. 14 released several emergency orders to ease strain on the state's healthcare system, including allowing qualified physician assistants to practice independently. 

"The healthcare system has been facing a critical staffing shortage, which has contributed to the loss of approximately 700 medical/surgical and [intensive care unit] hospital beds since the beginning of 2021," the health department said in a statement. "Hospitals are also seeing many more patients than usual, the majority due to non-COVID-19-related reasons." 

One of the emergency orders to address the staff shortage include allowing PAs to practice without physician supervision, as long as they are "employed within a provider setting where PAs work together with physicians to provide patient care and the PA is qualified and practicing within their scope of practice, experience and training." 

A separate order also expands flexibility for physician residents, enabling them to engage in "internal moonlighting." This will allow residents to provide care outside of their specialized training program so they can be reallocated to areas in the healthcare system with the highest staffing demands. 

Additionally, the health department is allowing out-of-hospital dialysis units, including hospitals with outpatient dialysis centers, to relax staffing level requirements; expediting the licensure of foreign-trained physicians; and advising people to avoid going to the emergency department for "routine healthcare needs, COVID-19 testing or COVID-19 vaccination." 

HHS data showed about 86 percent of Massachusetts' inpatient beds — including for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19-related care — were in use as of Jan. 14.

Meanwhile, the daily average for COVID-19 hospitalizations in Massachusetts was 2,942 as of Jan. 14, a 102 percent increase over the last 14 days, according to The New York Times.

To learn more about the emergency orders, click here

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