PEI

Pharmacists should play bigger role in health care, says Opposition MLA

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen told the House Wednesday he wants pharmacists to play a bigger role in the health-care system by providing more services, similar to what walk-in clinics offer.

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen says pharmacists could provide services similar to walk-in clinics

Pharmacists say Islanders are coming to them for certain services, and they want to be able to help them. (Shutterstock)

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen told the House Wednesday he wants pharmacists to play a bigger role in the health-care system by providing more services, similar to what walk-in clinics offer.

He says there are 48 pharmacies and 193 pharmacists across the Island that could help with front-line care by expanding their scope of practice. MacEwen said it would be of particular benefit in smaller communities, with limited access to health care.

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association has also asked in the past to take on more duties. They already give out flu shots and right now P.E.I. pharmacists can provide prescriptions for a list of 30 minor ailments. However, the association said Island pharmacists still cannot address other common issues, like their colleagues in other jurisdictions. 

We all talked about walk-in clinics and nurse practitioners, but we were missing the most obvious example.— PC MLA Sidney MacEwen

The association suggests government increase the range of minor ailments they can diagnose to include things like urinary tract infections, expand the range of vaccines pharmacists are able to administer, and allow them to prescribe birth control. The association said Islanders are coming to pharmacists looking for these services. 

Ease pressure on ERs

MacEwen said if pharmacists' scope of care is widened it could ease the pressure on walk-in clinics and emergency departments. He said a number of people go to the ER with non-emergency ailments. 

"We had a big debate here the other day about the Montague ER and it was [said] that 58% of people that present at the ER in Montague are non-emergency. We all talked about walk-in clinics and nurse practitioners, but we were missing the most obvious example," said MacEwen in the House.  

P.E.I. pharmacists can give flu shots, but they want to take on more duties within the health-care system. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"Imagine if the pharmacists' scope of practice could include almost what you get at walk-in clinics. They can do it. They're taught to prescribe. Their whole education is surrounded around that," said MacEwen.  

"The walk-in clinic in Morell is open half a day a week, but yet the pharmacist is there everyday. That's a huge, huge place in our health-care system. It's the front-line service in our community and many other communities across P.E.I."  

Province speaking with pharmacists 

Health Minister Robert Mitchell says the province continues to talk to pharmacists about what their scope of practice could be. 

"I've had some conversations with pharmacists individually. I've had some conversations with their governing body. I've indicated that we will continue this, and I actually sent a letter to that [effect] recently," said Mitchell.

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen says widening the scope of care of pharmacists could help in small communities where there's limited access to health care. (Alastair MacCormack/CBC News)
 

"As soon as time permits, we will sit down and have those discussions, and hopefully good outcomes will be the answer."

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association also said it would like to see the province cover its assessment fees, which run about $20 over and above the cost of any prescription. When a doctor does an assessment, that cost isn't passed on to the patient because it's covered by the province. Pharmacists say the extra cost prevents some people from coming to them. 

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About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.