NATUROPATHS CONCERNED ABOUT REDUCTION IN SCOPE OF PRACTICE

Published  Saturday, May 17, 2003 in the North Islander

by DENISE HAYES
North Islander Reporter

B.C.’s Liberal government is preparing to reduce the scope of practice for naturopathic physicians, says the North Island’s Dr. Ingrid Pincott, a naturopathic physician.
“If this happens, it means I won’t be able to do physical exams, I’ll be doing only consultation; acting as a consultant,” Pincott said.
According to Dr. Garrett Swetlikoff, president of the B.C. Naturopathic Association, a government document, called “Safe Choices: A New Model for Regulating Health Professionals in B.C.” could mean sweeping changes for naturopathic medicine in the province.
“Safe Choices’ represents a huge, backwards step for naturopathic medicine and health care in B.C.,” Swetlikoff said. “The proposed changes will only serve to limit access for hundreds of thousands of existing patients seeking complementary medical care from qualified professionals.
Pincott said there are currently 180 naturopathic physicians in the province, up from only 30 when she started practicing. She said she and her fellow naturopathic physicians are well trained and follow strict regulations to ensure patient safety.
Barb Cates, a patient of Pincott’s, said she still sees medical doctors for health issues, but sees naturopathic physicians as a complementary health choice for her and her family. She said she and her husband are healthier under a naturopath’s care.
“My husband Bruce and I are both guided by Dr. Pincott and she educates us as a family and that has improved our eating habits,” Cates said. “We’ve both kicked the coffee addiction for one year by boosting our energy level naturally by nourishing our systems.
“I don’t have any fears about my health. I feel empowered by the knowledge I’ve gained and the choice is mine whether to follow through on that knowledge. Isn’t that really what it’s all about?”
Cates said Pincott has helped her manage stress, has guided her through the “inevitable change of life” and has provided information about heart attack and stroke prevention, something that runs in Cate’s family.
Sindi Hawkins, B.C.’s Health Planning Minister, said a proposal paper released last summer is seeking input on reforms to the Health Professions Act. She said the innovative changes will give a uniform regulatory framework for all health professions in B.C.
Defining the scopes of practices will ensure that clinical procedures or “reserved actions” that may present a risk of harm will be reserved for specified professions only. Reserved actions include prescribing drugs as well as physically invasive acts like performing procedures below the surface of the skin, setting a fracture or administering a substance by injection.
Pincott said the B.C. Naturopathic Association is aiming to collect 50,000 signatures on a petition over the course of this summer, to present to the legislature this fall.
“The petition is in local health food stores, it’s available at my office and it’s at www.bcna.ca,” Pincott said. “As a physician, I would be happy to mail it out to anybody who wants one.”
Swetlikoff said the petition requests that the provincial government: recognize that naturopathic physicians have been providing safe, effective health care for decades in B.C.; reject the Health Professions Council’s recommended scope of practice for naturopathic physicians and; replace it with a scope that reflects the current education and historic practice of providing safe and effective primary health care.