Since the onset of the pandemic, it’s been challenging for many Canadians to get the health care they need, when they need it. Whether COVID-related or otherwise, my pharmacy colleagues and I have heard from countless patients from coast to coast about delayed – and even skipped – medical checkups over the past two years, which puts their health at risk.
While many of us are thankfully getting back to our doctor’s offices, the reality is that millions of Canadians are still having challenges accessing healthcare.
Canadians’ access to healthcare remains a critical issue we cannot ignore.
Millions of Canadians have challenges accessing care
In 2019, millions of Canadians reported they did not have a regular healthcare provider.[i] Even for those with a regular provider, it can be overwhelming and challenging to get timely care when a health issue or illness arises.
Whether seeking care for a common ailment like conjunctivitis (pink eye), a urinary tract infection or something more serious like an injury, not knowing where to go – or waiting at an urgent care clinic or hospital emergency department – can make an already stressful situation feel even worse.
Pharmacists are part of the solution
Pharmacists have long been an accessible resource Canadians turn to for their health and wellbeing, but they have also been underutilized as Canadians’ frontline community healthcare professionals. Pharmacists can support Canadians with significantly more than filling prescriptions and can help support Canadians in need of timely, convenient and accessible care.
While pharmacists’ scope of practice differs in every province, they can help Canadians with so much more, including ongoing management of chronic conditions like diabetes, medication reviews, and wellness services that help manage heart health. Pharmacists are highly accessible in our communities and can play a key role in delivering the care Canadians need quickly and conveniently in partnership with other healthcare professionals.
Helping Lethbridge residents
Like those in many communities across the country, Lethbridge residents have faced challenges getting the care they need when they need it. That’s why we have partnered with the University of Alberta to launch a pharmacist-led primary healthcare clinic, opening at the Real Canadian Superstore in Lethbridge, to make healthcare more accessible.
With their broad scope of practice, Alberta pharmacists who have advanced prescribing authority (or APA) can provide essential primary care services to Albertans. Specifically, they have the ability assess patients and prescribe medications for minor illnesses and injuries, administer vaccines and other medications by injection, support chronic disease management and order and receive lab results.
The opening of the Pharmacist Walk in Clinic means patients will have access to services from a dedicated team of pharmacists in a familiar clinic setting. Making these services available will support primary care providers in the community and alleviate hospital and emergency room visits – ultimately leading to better health outcomes for patients. The clinic will open as of Monday, June 27, via appointment or walk-in, and I am looking forward to hearing from pharmacists and patients alike about the impact it has in Lethbridge.
Expanding access to pharmacist-led primary care
It is my hope is that the Lethbridge clinic opening is just the beginning of pharmacist-led primary care that can support Canadians in getting the care they need quickly and conveniently.
When we work together, we can alleviate the strain on our health system and help Canadians stay healthy. Alongside our partners, we’re ready to make this a reality in more communities.
Jeff Leger is the president of Shoppers Drug Mart.