The P.E.I. government has agreed to give pharmacists a bigger role in the Island health care system.
A review is currently underway which could lead to pharmacists giving flu shots and prescribing drugs.
If Island pharmacists have their way, sometime in 2013 waiting rooms at walk-in clinics will be less full because patients with minor ailments, such as gastro intestinal conditions or eczema, could get a prescription from their pharmacist, and skip a trip to the doctor completely. People like Mark Stevenson, who spent part of Wednesday waiting at a clinic, says that would be something he would appreciate.
"If it means less time waiting to see your family doctor or to get a prescription refilled that you know you already need, that probably would be a win-win," said Mark Stevenson.
P.E.I. pharmacists have been lobbying government to expand their role in Island health care. Government has now agreed, although it has yet to decide exactly what extra roles pharmacists will take on.
"There's other jurisdictions in the country that have allowed pharmacists to move forward in enhancing their scope," said health minister Doug Currie. "I see it as a tremendous opportunity for them as a health provider, to strengthen our public health system here in the province of Prince Edward Island."
Besides the ability to write prescriptions, pharmacists want the ability to change drug dosages and formulations, and to apply vaccinations.
"Pharmacists across the country are all coming out from schools being trained as expanded-scope pharmacists, with specialties providing services at the pharmacy level," said Neila Auld, the registrar of the P.E.I. Pharmacy Board. "It's a role they can take on, and it's better access for the service to the public."
Murphy's Pharmacies have a nurse on staff to apply flu shots. By next flu season, the shots could be coming from pharmacists themselves.
"It just helps provide another accessible health care provider to provide the vaccine to the patient which makes it convenient," said pharmacist Ryan Murphy. "It makes it easy for the patient to receive the vaccine."
But not everyone is entirely comfortable with the idea of a pharmacist taking on some of the roles traditionally filled by a doctor. Government has created a working group to look at the issue and make recommendations as to just what pharmacists should be allowed to do, and what extra training they'll need to do it.
A report is due in the spring, with legislative changes to come after that.