P.E.I. pharmacists 'frustrated' waiting for province to expand scope of practice

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association says it wants to see a sense of urgency from the province in widening the scope of practice for Island pharmacists.

'The longer we go not practising to our scope, the more frustrating it gets'

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association says it's been waiting years for changes that would allow pharmacists to be able to practise to their fullest potential on the Island. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association says it wants to see a sense of urgency from the province in widening the scope of practice for Island pharmacists.

The association has lobbied the government for several years to make changes. Executive director Erin MacKenzie said the delay in significant changes has become frustrating.

"In 2014 we did see an expansion of scope, but we really haven't seen anything significant since that time," she said. 

"So we are certainly pushing to have our expanded scope to the point where pharmacists can practise to their full potential."

Change could fill gaps in Island health care

She said her hope is that pharmacists will be able to assess and treat urinary tract infections, high blood pressure and shingles. 

She said she would also like for pharmacists to be able to prescribe birth control and administer provincially-funded immunization for mumps, measles and whooping cough. These are usually free for adults on the Island, but not when provided by a pharmacist.

Many of these changes were announced by the Nova Scotia government earlier this week.

Association executive director Erin MacKenzie says expanding pharmacists' scope could help fill gaps in P.E.I.'s health-care system. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

MacKenzie said with 50 community pharmacies across P.E.I., this change could help fill the gaps in access to health care as the province continues to deal with a nursing and doctor shortage.

"We're hearing from a lot of our pharmacists that they are very frustrated. They have patients that are coming in that want an assessment, that they see people are getting in other provinces and we cannot provide that service here," she said.

"We'd really love to see the government here work with us to make that happen in a more timely manner, because the longer we go not practising to our scope, the more frustrating it gets," she said.

'Public protection'

It's up to both the P.E.I. College of Pharmacy and the provincial Department of Health to make changes to regulations. 

Registrar Michelle Wyand, with the college, said the group is in favour of widening the scope of practice for pharmacists, but that implementing changes isn't so simple.

Up until this point, she said the college has been looking at a number of factors like what effects an expansion of scope might have on the health-care system and any possible impacts on public health.

"Our mandate is certainly public protection," she said. 

"In the interests of the public, we have to ensure that when we implement a scope expansion for pharmacists or our pharmacy technicians, that we really are giving that full consideration ... before we implement."

Changes likely to come this spring 

Minister of Health and Wellness James Aylward said he's also in full support of expanding pharmacists' scope of practice on P.E.I. He hopes to propose changes to current regulations in the spring sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature, but that until then, ground work needs to be done first. 

He said the department is currently in talks with the Medical Society of P.E.I. and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. so that any proposals can "be looked at and agreed upon."

"It might seem like it's taking a long time, but again we need to make sure that there's that consultative process going back and forth and that we receive the best information from the college that will represent the pharmacists," Aylward said.

"This isn't going to happen overnight.… We're not going to wait another five years to make this happen."

More P.E.I. news 


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