A re-elected Liberal government would expand the powers of nurses and nurse practitioners to do more tasks currently done only by doctors, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne pledged Friday.
Registered nurses would see the breadth of their abilities widened to include prescribing a wide range of medications, such as those for skin conditions, while nurse practitioners would be allowed to order tests such as CT scans and X-rays, she said.
"We want to make sure that we keep the health care system strong, and a large part of that is making sure that we have the right supports in place for the nurses who do that foundational work," Wynne said at a Toronto rehab hospital.
"It's about letting nurses work to the full scope of their practice – that their capacity and their education is used fully in the system."
Prescriptions for narcotic drugs would still be handled only by physicians, she said.
Some 100,000 registered nurses work in the province, compared to about 2,000 nurse practitioners, according The College of Nurses of Ontario.
The head of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, Doris Grinspun, said letting nurses dole out medications for common ailments such as ear and sinus infections would help cut health care wait times.
"You will transform the system overnight because you will have timely access," she said. "The moment you have timely access, especially in primary care, you decongest the system."
Wynne also used the announcement to take shots at rival Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak, saying she doubted that his pledge to chop 100,000 public sector jobs would, as he says, leave health care untouched.
"That that could be done without affecting health care is, I think, questionable at best," Wynne said, noting health spending consumes almost half the province's budget.
"I am raising the question. I think that it's something he needs to be pushed on."
She stopped short of saying that Hudak couldn't be taken at his word on what would and would not be affected by the cuts, repeating her refrain that "decisions that government make have consequences."
Wynne was to address a nursing conference later Friday.