BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill allowing nurses to go it alone is heading to the House floor.
The House Health and Welfare Committee advanced SB 187 by a slim margin with a vote of 7-6. The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, has already cleared the Senate.
If it were to become law, the measure would allow nurses to operate outside of collaborative agreements with doctors. In other words, they would not have to be part of what was labeled in committee as a "healthcare team."
The rule would only apply in parishes designed by federal law as primary care shortage areas.
"Access to care is important and I'm passing this bill because I believe that everybody should have access to care. You're going to tell me if we have more individuals that can see more people you're going to have access to care? That's crazy," Barrow told the committee.
Barrow also explained that now could be a key time to take up such a measure.
About 300,000 people are estimated to sign up for Medicaid under the governor's expansion plan and Barrow said many of those individuals may be using a primary care physician for the first time. She added that not all physician may not take Medicaid insurance, so more nurses could be helpful in treating those people.
Still, many doctors opposed the measure, saying that nurses do not receive the same level of training as doctors and are thus putting patients at risk if they were to go it alone without doctoral supervision.
"If we're going to go and set these people free, be on their own, and we think we're going to save money, we've got to make sure they know what they're doing, know what tests to order when," said one doctor, dressed in her lab coat and with a stethoscope around her neck.
The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.