Benefits and Disadvantages of using Unregulated Health Care Providers

A growing challenge for every healthcare system is ensuring that all its subjects have access to quality care. This challenge is mainly brought about by increasing shortage of healthcare professionals across the globe. With limited professionals in comparison to the population’s care needs, the quality of care provided might be affected. The use of unregulated healthcare workers (UHWs) has thus been one of the approaches towards ensuring access to care for the care clients. Similarly, increased use of UHWs has resulted from higher preference for home care over institutionalized care. The national health expenditure on home care alternatives in the U.S has for instance increased over time (U.S department of health and human services, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), & National Centre for Health Statistics, 2009; Table 126, p. 396). Apart from home settings, an increasing use of UHWs in such other settings as rehabilitation centres and assisted living communities, has been noted by the Canadian Nursing Association – CNA – (2008). As a consequence of increase in population needing care and nurse shortages; unregulated care providers (UCPs) are increasingly being used to perform some of the functions traditionally rested with the regulated professionals (CNA, 2008). The preference of such workers by many home care provider organizations may however result from UHWs’ low salary levels hence a way through which these organizations minimize their labour costs (Brennan Centre for Justice, 2007).

Increased use of UCPs in care settings has however elicited much criticism. Part of this criticism results from increasing complexity of care services required from provider institutions. It is argued that as patients are increasingly being discharged to homecare and long-term care systems at an earlier period than the traditional practice; services needed are getting more complex (CNA, 2008). Without the attention of healthcare professionals such as licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs); use of UCPs may adversely affect the quality of care in these settings (CNA, 2008). The purpose of this paper is thus to evaluate the benefits and disadvantages that are associated with the use of UCPs. As a background to understanding how UCPs are used in care provision, aspects such as the definition of UCPs, the guidelines for delegation of tasks and procedures and their training are discussed in the first section. Based on this background the pros and cons associated with UCPs use are then discussed to inform on their effect on care provision. Go to part 2 here.

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