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Legislation Introduced to Reflect Medical Reality for Physician Assistants

January 18, 2007

A lot has changed in doctors' offices in the last 33 years, but the law regulating physician assistants, or PAs, in South Dakota has not. That adds stressors that our health care professionals don't need, according to Dan Palmer, president of the South Dakota Academy of Physician Assistants. Palmer says it's time for a legislative face-lift, and that a bill being considered this week in the legislature is long overdue.

"It modernizes the language about PA education and credentialing, which is reflective of current medical practice."

Palmer adds that language in the bill also gives coverage to PAs to function in emergency and disaster situations when access to their supervising physician is compromised or not possible. He explains that provision was introduced because of problems PA health providers experienced in the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

"What they found is that PAs were being separated by their supervising physician and, while we have Good Samaritan language that covers the liability for a PA who might be driving down the road and come upon a car accident, this does not necessarily cover a PA who would be at the location of a state or federal emergency."

Palmer thinks the updated language is a "win-win" for the PA, physician and the public.

"Physician assistants are benefited because this helps to clarify the language which governs their practice. Physicians benefit because they supervise PAs. The public benefits because we would have language which is consistent with our current medical practice and PA practice in this state and across the country."

House bill HB-1028 is being introduced by the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD