Benefits and Disadvantages of using Unregulated Health Care Providers

A growing concern for every healthcare system is ensuring access to all its subjects. With a shortage of healthcare professionals being a reality in many countries, access to healthcare may prove a mirage in most cases. To attain the required degree of access, maximum utilization of each health care provider may be the minimum prerequisite (College of registered nurses of Manitoba [CRNM], 2002). A paradox however exists in that not only access must be provided but the care provided should also be safe and of high quality. It is notable that all stakeholders in the healthcare system bear a direct or implied responsibility of ensuring the safety and quality of care provided (CRNM, 2002). Such a scenario is what has elicited inquiries into whether the increasing use of unregistered care providers promotes or curtails better outcomes in healthcare provision.

As more people especially the elderly or those living with debilitating disorders shun institutionalized care in favour of home care, the use of unregulated health care workers is gaining popularity (Janz, 2004). Apart from a home setting, unregulated healthcare workers have also been used to provide care to patients and clients in other settings such as rehabilitation centres and assisted living communities (Canadian Nursing Association – CNA, 2008). With the number of people in these settings growing, nurse shortages affecting many countries health systems and rising popularity of long-term care insurance; unregulated providers have been perceived as an alternative to the use of regulated workforce to provide care services (CNA, 2008). What however has mainly driven the increasing trend to use unregulated care providers is the economics of the practise where these are thought to provide services at lower costs (Janz, 2004; CNA, 2008).

The trend to discharge clients and patients to homecare and long-term care at an earlier period that was the traditional practice however has implied that the level of care being charged to these institutions is becoming more complex; hence the range of services needed outside hospitals is becoming more intricate (CNA, 2008). As such more care professionals such as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses are being needed at such settings despite the shortages of such professionals (Janes, Sidani, Cott & Rappolt, 2008). This latter perspective is what has bought concerns about the continued use of unregulated care providers without there having a system to control their practices (Janz, 2004).

The purpose of this paper is thus to address the benefits and disadvantages that are associated with increasing use of unregistered care providers (UCPs). First the framework within which care provision is delegated or assigned to UCPs will be evaluated. This will cover aspects such as the definition of UCPs, the guidelines for assignment of tasks and procedures and the training for the UCPs. The advantages of use of UCPs will then be contrasted with the drawbacks to conclude on whether the continued use of UCPs would better patient and clients care outcomes or not.

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