TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Doctors would be able to increase the number of physician assistants they supervise from four to eight under a measure passed Tuesday by the House.
The bill (HB 1275) was approved by a vote of 100 to 19 despite concerns by some lawmakers that the change would mean spreading the attention of supervising physicians too thin, resulting in less oversight by the professional who is ultimately in charge.
"I wanted to support this until I read it and there is no definition of what supervision is," said Rep. Carl Zimmerman, R-Dunedin.
He said he supports broadening the duties of licensed assistants, "but I just can't expand that to people who are not going to be supervised."
The definition, as explained by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, in previous debate of the bill, is "responsible supervision and control" with easy availability of the supervising physician including by "telecommunications."
Doctors in Florida are permitted to use licensed physicians to carry out a number of procedures both in their office and in other locations. Those tasks include the prescription of medications that doctor is licensed to handle, with the exception of controlled substances, and medicating a patient.
The low ratio inhibits the delivery of "good primary care where it's really needed," said Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Sebring, who is a physician. He cited the case of a physician who supervised four assistants in an adjacent county, where there is a need for additional care.
"If they were to bring on a fifth (assistant) by statute, they would have to bring in another health care provider to supervise him," Pigman said.
Florida is among 16 states that allow four assistants to be supervised by a doctor; 11 states have no restrictions on those numbers while 16 have limits of two or three.
The measure would exclude physicians from adding assistants to dermatology practices other than that of the physician's primary location.