- 1 of 2
AT LEAST two practicing physicians yesterday vigorously opposed legislation that seeks to establish a code of practice for medical assistants before they can practice in the field of medicine on Guam, saying Bill 441 interferes with employer’s autonomy to practice.
Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr., health committee chairman, conducted a public hearing on Bill 441 yesterday. Numerous healthcare industry stakeholders attended the hearing, offering their support for the measure.
However, among those who opposed the bill were radiologist Dr. Nate Berg and Guam Medical Association president and obstetrician Dr. Thomas Shieh – both of whom employ medical assistants as part of their private practice.
Shieh expressed his disagreement with the bill because he believes there’s no need to mandate and prescribe a law for how medical assistants operate. He said medical assistants are typically provided training by their hiring physicians or other allied health professionals.
The medical assistants are also given specific job duties under their employers, he said.
“There is no training that fits all in clinical practice of different specialties,” Shieh said. “Ultimately, it’s the supervising physician’s duty to ensure his or her medical assistant is fully qualified.”
Under the bill, the hiring physician is given the ultimate responsibility for the medical assistant. However, Shieh said the bill may criminalize the physician if violations occur.
“In this particular bill, you only cited the physician that would be punished or criminalized for its violations, but nowhere in the bill holds the responsibility of the nurses, physician assistants, or advance nurse practitioners. You have placed a great burden on the physician and to make it worse, this bill interferes with the autonomy in our practice,” Shieh said.
Berg shared the same sentiments as Shieh, saying he’s worked in multiple cities in the U.S. mainland and has never come across medical assistant certification issues.
“We as physicians or other supervising professionals look and see at what level these people are qualified. I let them work with more experienced people before they assist,” Berg said. “It’s your responsibility to make sure the healthcare industry is safe, but not the medical assistant aspect because it’s too broad. That’s why it can’t be regulated.”
The physicians both reiterated that it has been standard practice across the nation that medical assistants fall under the purview and training of their supervising physician or other allied health professional.
Rodriguez assured the physicians that he will take into consideration their testimonies during the markup committee of the measure.
Shieh said he spoke with some staff members at the Guam Community College, inviting them to work with GMA to improve the program.
“I want GCC to succeed and we will leave no graduates behind,” Shieh said in a statement.