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Ontario pharmacists advocate for bigger health care role
May 23rd, 2014
TORONTO – With provincial elections coming up in June, the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) has called on its members — and all pharmacy professionals in the province — to speak to candidates in their travels and support those committed to expanding pharmacists' role in the delivery of health care.
Specifically, OPA said, pharmacists are being asked to promote the priorities that the assocation has put forward to all parties in the Ontario election. That is, pharmacists should be allowed — and funded — to provide routine injections over and above the flu shot, including travel vaccinations, and immunizations for shingles and HPV; treatment for common ailments such as pink eye or poison ivy; and smoking cessation programs for all Ontarians, not just those on the Ontario Drug Benefit Program.
OPA noted that each of those services represents a key opportunity to directly benefit patient health and well-being and to support a more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable health care system. What's more, the association added, such services are already being offered by pharmacists in other provinces, including Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.
"Today, pharmacists are able to deliver more services than ever before to our patients, but Ontario continues to lag behind other provinces in how it uses pharmacists to support patients and the health care system," OPA chairman Carlo Berardi said in a statement.
OPA said the association and its members will be assessing the platforms of the three major parties to determine which offers the best improvements to Ontario health care, as well as the best opportunity for pharmacists to more fully use their expertise to improve health outcomes.
In October 2012, Ontario's government approved regulations that allow pharmacists to provide a wider range of pharmacy services. The new services include adapting and renewing existing prescriptions; prescribing certain drugs to help people quit smoking; administering (by injection or inhalation) specific substances to a patient for the purpose of education and demonstration; piercing the skin to support patient self-care and monitoring of a chronic disease (such as diabetes); and giving a flu shot to a person age 5 and older (as part of Ontario's Universal Influenza Immunization Program). The flu shot component was initiated in late October.
Health services for which Ontario pharmacists are at least partially compensated include smoking cessation (under the Ontario Drug Benefit Program) and flu vaccinations in the areas of health promotion and disease prevention; MedsCheck and the Pharmaceutical Opinion Program (Ontario Drug Benefit Program only) in the area of medication therapy management; and MedsCheck Diabetes in the area of chronic disease management. Pharmacists aren't yet authorized for the treatment of minor ailments.
OPA pointed out that since 2012, when pharmacists' scope of practice was expanded to include flu shots, nearly 1 million Ontarians have received their flu shot at their local pharmacy, with more than 750,000 doing so in the 2013-14 flu season alone.
"Utilizing pharmacists to provide a wider range of health care services to Ontarians will help reduce wait times in both doctors' offices and hospitals, improve efficiencies through better allocation of scarce health care dollars, and ensure patients receive the effective and convenient care they deserve," added Berardi. "The Ontario Pharmacists Association is encouraging our members to deliver this message to all political candidates, and to support those individuals and parties that share in that vision."