An expanded role for pharmacists might help ease pressure on Manitoba’s health-care system, pharmacists say.
It’s a model being expanded in Alberta, and sees pharmacists take a more clinical approach by offering services through pharmacy care clinics. “Alberta has been a leader in terms of pharmacy scope of practice for more than a decade now,” said Tim Smith, a pharmacy practice advisor with Pharmacists Manitoba.
Right now, at the Medicine Shoppe on Osborne Street, pharmacist Jason Hoeppner prepares medications for his patients, but sometimes, he can’t help as much as he’d like.
“Where a medication isn’t available, rather than having to go back to the doctor or nurse practitioner to get a change, you know, pharmacists can do that on their own and sort of save everybody some time and paperwork,” he said.
Provincial regulation sets out what pharmacists can and can’t do, meaning their reach can vary between provinces.
Hoeppner says in Manitoba, he can’t fully exercise his training.
“It’s a little bit frustrating because we know sort of what needs to be done, but we can’t do it. We don’t have the authority right now,” he said. “It’s frustrating to train at a certain level and then not be able to practice at that level when you enter practice.”
Smith said Hoeppner’s concerns are not uncommon. “We’ve got one of the best programs in the country, or perhaps in the continent here, and we’re not allowing them to practice what they’ve been trained to (do),” he said.
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Alberta’s expansion of pharmacy clinics is “kind of a reimagined vision for the future of pharmacy,” he said. “It’s really putting the clinical and consultative aspects of pharmacy practice at the forefront rather than, you know, working it into the context of a traditional community pharmacy that’s focused on dispensing.”
With Alberta’s format, Smith said “pharmacists have been able to do things such as prescribing, adapting and changing doses, conducting point of care testing, ordering lab tests.”
To do this, Albertan pharmacists apply for additional prescribing authority, he said. “They go through a validated process to show that they’ve got the communication skills, the collaborative skills and the patient care skills in order to provide this advanced level of service.” He added it doesn’t require an additional degree or advanced training.
Smith said Pharmacists Manitoba has “460 points of care located in more than 90m communities across the province. 1100 frontline health care professionals who are ready to step up and help fill the gap.”
Winnipegger Skye Hart said she’d happily see a pharmacist to avoid long waits at a walk-in. She said it took “five hours for my son, just to get antibiotics when I knew he needed it.”
However, Terry Johnson said he’d be hesitant. “Your family doctor is the one you need to do, go through, first,” he said.
“There’s some, some definite areas (pharmacists) could help. Managing chronic conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure. You know, we’re well situated to be able to do that,” Hoeppner said.
In a statement to Global News, the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba said it “continually engages in discussions with relevant stakeholders, including government bodies and healthcare professionals, to explore enhancing the scope of practice for pharmacy professionals.”
Hoeppner believes the model would be especially helpful in rural areas.
“We see a lot of our patients who have no family doctor, no nurse practitioner that they can see. (They’re) sort of bouncing from walk-in clinic to walk-in clinic for chronic conditions. We’re well situated to help with those types of patients,” he said, taking the pressure off the health-care system.
— with files from Global’s Iris Dyck
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