P.E.I. pharmacists call on province to help offset higher costs to give flu shots during COVID
‘The members were very frustrated. They did not feel their services were being valued’
P.E.I. pharmacists want more money from the province as they get set to administer flu shots under a whole new set of COVID-19 rules.
The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association says there will be additional staffing costs for pre-screening, scheduling and monitoring as well as for off-site or even drive-thru flu clinics.
Pharmacists will have to pay more for personal protective equipment, which will be required when administering flu shots as well as additional costs associated with enhanced cleaning.
Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association, expressed her concerns during a legislative standing committee on Wednesday which is examining how the province is handling the ongoing global pandemic.
"We know that the costs are going to be increased. We know the costs to deliver this service cannot do anything but go up," MacKenzie said in an interview following her presentation to P.E.I. MLAs.
"So, the members were very frustrated. They did not feel their services were being valued. There were programs in place to make sure that physician's billings did not suffer during the COVID-19 crisis.
"Pharmacists did not go anywhere when the pandemic struck Prince Edward Island and they remain steadfast in delivering the service without any offer or entertainment of remuneration model to be discussed."
Meeting with minister
The association expressed its concerns to the province in early July.
Health Minister James Aylward met with the association in August and they were told they would hear back from the province in seven to 10 days.
So far, that has not happened.
In a statement to CBC News, the province said it appreciates the association's concerns.
The province said they offered PPE if the association is unable to secure enough to deliver the flu vaccine.
But nowhere in the statement did the province say it would pay for that PPE or increase the fee paid to pharmacists.
Right now, the province pays pharmacists for every flu shot they give. Pharmacists say they used to give about eight flu shots an hour.
With the new COVID-19 rules, that number is expected to be cut in half.
Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald described it as "mind boggling" that the pharmacists association is having such a difficult time trying to get answers from the provincial government. He said pharmacists are front-line staff.
"We can see it on the presenter's face today that they are very concerned," said MacDonald.
"There are 150 pharmacists across the Island and in rural P.E.I. that presently provide flu shots to thousands of Islanders and possibly could be applying flu vaccines due to COVID-19 and there's been really been no communication to fully comprehend what they have to go through in preparation for that."
More than half of all Islanders looking for a flu shot end up at their neighbourhood pharmacy.
Pharmacists in P.E.I. have been looking to be able to practise to our full educational scope for more than a decade.— Erin MacKenzie, P.E.I. Pharmacists Association
The pharmacists association expects that number to climb this year.
Health officials say demand for flu shots is anticipated to increase by at least 25 per cent this year.
MacKenzie said COVID-19 has shown that the province needs to allow pharmacists to practise to their full educational scope. She said while the province continues to expand virtual and telehealth, nearly all of the symptoms being treated through these off-Island services could be handled by pharmacists in communities across the Island.
"Since 2008, pharmacists in Alberta have been able to provide care within their full scope of practice," said MacKenzie.
"Pharmacists in P.E.I. have been looking to be able to practise to our full educational scope for more than a decade."