A state Senate committee failed to pass a bill that would have granted nurse practitioners in Arkansas the authority to write prescriptions without the necessity of a collaborative practice agreement with a licensed physician.
Currently, nurse practitioners who want to operate independently, need a practice agreement to treat their patients at the same level as a physician, including the ability to prescribe medication. The bill would have removed this requirement. Some other states in the country have removed this demand.
The Senate committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor voted against the bill Wednesday, after hearing testimony for and against it for over an hour.
Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville, one of the bill’s sponsors, said removing the requirement for a practice agreement would allow for more Arkansans to be treated across the state. According to Wallace, Arkansas ranks lower in the country on medical treatment.
"We consistently rank in this area. In 2017, we ranked 48 in senior care. In 2017, we ranked 49 in the country in our care of our women and our children. Our nurse practitioners can help fill that gap and give access for healthcare," Wallace said.
Dr. Amanda Deel, a family physician in Jonesboro, spoke against the legislation. She says additional hours of training physicians receive is one reason why practitioners cannot provide the same level of care as a physician. She also discussed the two medical schools that recently opened in the state and suggested the state wait for students currently enrolled to help before expanding the abilities for nurse practitioners.
"I'd like to ask again. Give us time to fill the physician shortage with physicians, and give all Arkansans the level of treatment by physicians that we all deserve," Deel said.
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said waiting for more students to graduate from medical school could result in another six to eight years of "failure to deliver access to the people of Arkansas before we can start seeing results, or if we change this we get results immediately, possibly."
"You’re saying that any care is better than no care? Well, you’re talking about my mom’s care, my niece and nephew’s care, my brother and sister in law’s care and I take offense to that," Deel said.
After hearing testimony from everyone scheduled to speak on the bill, the committee voted 5-3 against it.