JACKSON, MS (WLBT) – A medical turf war is brewing at the State Capitol.
With a shortage of physicians in the state nurse practitioners want more power, but doctors believe things could get dangerous without their oversight.
Doctors and nurse practitioners in white lab coats packed a hearing by the Public Health and Welfare Committee on House Bill 605.
It would eliminate the need for nurse practitioners to have a written agreement with a physician in order to practice within their scope.
According to the Mississippi Nurses Association there are 2,000 nurse practitioners who fill the void particularly in rural areas like Issaquena and Sharkey counties which have no physicians.
"All this does is remove the signature of the one collaborating physician. They would continue to collaborate with physicians all over the state, but they wouldn't have to have the signature of one particular," said Mississippi Nursing Association Executive Director Dr. Ricki Garrett.
The Mississippi Medical Association and the State Board of Medical Licensure oppose the bill.
More than 5,000 doctors practice in the state according to medical officials.
The groups said that number will increase through the Mississippi Rural Scholarship Program.
Thirty medical students and residents have received scholarships that would require them to work in rural counties.
Physicians think the legislation would allow nurse practitioners to have independent practices.
"To abandon that approach and put the nurse practitioner in the driver's seat where they have total responsibility and total control in effect practicing medicine, I think that puts us a little bit on a slippery slope," said MS State Medical Association President Dr. Tim Alford.
Lawmakers urged both sides to come up with compromises that would benefit the patients.
"We can't get doctors to Tutweiler and to Tremont. They will not live there and practice. That's not where the money is quite frankly. So that's all this is about. We're gonna talk about it. I'm not sure we're ready for an independent practice. I don't think so," said Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Holland.
The committee could possibly vote on the bill Wednesday.
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