New Brunswick

New Brunswick pharmacists treating more minor health issues

It's been over a year since New Brunswick passed legislation that expanded the role of pharmacists in the province, which allowed them to prescribe select medications and treat minor health concerns that do not require lab tests.

2014 legislation allows pharmacists to assess and treat minor ailments

Pharmacists in New Brunswick have been able to assess, treat and prescribe certain medications for just over a year.

From urinary tract infections to cold sores to seasonal allergies, New Brunswick pharmacists are helping to ease the pressure on the province's health care system, one minor ailment at a time.

It's been over a year since New Brunswick passed legislation that expanded the role of pharmacists in the province, which allowed them to assess and treat minor health concerns and prescribe select medications.

Paul Blanchard, the executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association says the practice of pharmacists helping to screen minor ailments is nothing new.

"These are things that happened even before we had this legislation," he said. "Last year we conducted a survey nationally, one of the questions we asked was 'before you seek treatment from a doctor or after-hours clinic, do you call or visit a pharmacy?' and 56 per cent of New Brunswickers said yes."

Accessible, available and qualified

Blanchard says pharmacies offer convenient hours and are staffed by trained health professionals, which for minor ailments, means less congestion in emergency rooms and after-hours clinics.

"In Canada, there's about a million visits per year related to urinary tract infections and we know that more than 20 per cent of those go to the emergency room," Blanchard said. "In New Brunswick it's 100 people a day that are affected by urinary tract infections and it's not an emergency type of situation but it's certainly urgent."

The NBPA's website lists just over 30 minor ailments that pharmacists can assess and prescribe medication for, but pharmacies charge an assessment fee of around $22, which is not covered under the provincial medicare plan.

"While the government is encouraging pharmacists to provide these services, they're also certainly not funding them," Blanchard said.

Some health care plans will cover the cost of the fee, Blanchard added, but it puts pharmacists in the awkward situation of only being able to provide these services to people who are able to pay for them, something he hopes will change in the future.

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