PEI

Some Island pharmacies struggling to find technicians to hire

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association can't put an exact number on the shortage but says it's heard from a number of pharmacies that can't find anyone to hire. 

'It's mainly just a supply and demand issue — there's not enough people'

Jason Johnston, a pharmacist and the president of the P.E.I. Pharmacist Association, conducts a blood pressure test on a patient. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Some P.E.I. pharmacies are struggling to find technicians to work in their stores.

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association can't put an exact number on the shortage but says it's heard from a number of pharmacies that can't find anyone to hire. 

"It's mainly just a supply and demand issue," said Jason Johnston, a Charlottetown pharmacist and president of the association.

"There's not enough people who have pursued the education and are registered to do the work that's required."

Pharmacy technicians recently became an officially licensed health profession on P.E.I., and according to the association that opened up more jobs. "There was a real surge of employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians," said Johnston.

Johnston said the technicians work with the pharmacists to assist customers. (Laura Meader/CBC)

However, some technicians have left private pharmacies to work for Health PEI. 

The association said wages can vary but in some cases technicians can make around $5-10 per hour more working in hospitals. 

Pharmacists need help with expanded duties

Pharmacists have been given permission to do more health care duties from prescribing for minor ailments to giving flu shots. The association said pharmacists need more help with some of the more basic duties. 

Pharmacist technicians can do a range of work including reviewing prepared prescriptions, taking calls from doctors and more.

Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association, says having a pharmacy technician can allow the pharmacist to do other things as part of their newly expanded workload. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"They can independently do final checks, they can do blister packing to assist with the flow in the regular pharmacy team," said Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the association. 

"Having a pharmacy technician on staff really does support the expanded role of the pharmacist."

Need for a local course

MacKenzie hopes more people will become interested in the profession and said a local training course would help a lot with that. 

A pharmacy technician counting pills to fill a prescription. (Laura Meader/CBC)

She would like to see a local college offer a pharmacy technician course, as anyone interested must go out of province. 

"If they're trained here, they're more likely to stay here," said MacKenzie. 

The association plans to monitor the demand to get a better understanding of the problem. 

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