Sask. pharmacists hope to play a bigger role in delivering health care

The Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan hopes to sit down with the Ministry of Health soon to begin talking about how pharmacists can expand services to better help serve patients at the counter rather than adding to the growing lineup to see a doctor.

Pharmacists not funded to provide vaccinations beyond the flu shot

Saskatchewan pharmacists hope to expand services offered at the counter. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Saskatchewan pharmacists believe they can play an integral role in healthcare as Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health looks for transformational change.

The Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan hopes to sit down with the Ministry of Health soon to begin talking about how pharmacists can expand services to better help serve patients at the counter rather than adding to the growing lineup to see a doctor.

Association board chair Julia Bareham told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning that pharmacists currently don't receive funding to help monitor chronic diseases such as diabetes.

"Sure we can provide you your medications and help you with those diabetic meters but beyond that there's not many services we've developed or have funding for to help some of our patients," Bareham said.

"We also have access to lab data and it could help us monitor your current drug therapy, maybe you're on blood-thinners, you're wondering how that blood sugar is doing, that's something we can access and be able to sit down and go through that with our patients."

Vaccinations, specifically Hepatitis A and B and shots pharmacists can administer at the pharmacy, however, is something they are not funded for.

There's more than 360 pharmacies in the province and we have extended hours ... you can go right up to the counter and ask us a question- Julia Bareham, Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan

"In Saskatchewan, we have a lot of folks we have all this snow coming and we're thinking of going someplace warmer, perhaps a Hep A or Hep B shot might be something people want to get. Pneumonia shots too, we'd love for you to be able to come to the pharmacy, sit down and administer that shot."

In several cases, pharmacies are open longer than doctor's offices and with 79 trained pharmacists in Saskatoon alone, it could change how healthcare is delivered in Saskatchewan.

"There's more than 360 pharmacies in the province and we have extended hours, some are open seven days a week and we're accessible, you can go right up to the counter and ask us a question," Bareham said.

She added patients seem to feel more comfortable with pharmacists and research shows 95 per cent of patients expressed a degree of comfort discussing health issues with their pharmacists and 84 per cent view pharmacists as important or critical to health care.

Pharmacists currently study four years of medication-based training, but as Bareham explains, any time pharmacists want to offer a new service, something they weren't trained on, the pharmacy association develops education plans to have those frontline staff trained.

The latest example came from the massive flu shot roll out last year.

"We offered an online course, close to 20 hours of online learning about the flu and the injections and we offered live training on how to inject and last year we administered over 55,000 flu shots across the province," she said.

The province would have to make policy changes to allow an increased scope. They would also need to kick in funding to pay pharmacists for the extra services they would provide.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning