November 30, 2023

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Why pharmacists in N.S. want an even wider scope to help ease health-care strain

Pharmacists say there’s still more work they can do to help ease pressures on Nova Scotia’s health-care system.

They want to see the full scope of their practice recognized but say they also need to solve a recruitment problem.

The Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists says doctors should provide a diagnosis and pharmacists should take over prescribing and managing prescriptions.

“Pharmacists offering drug therapy I believe will result in patients probably being prescribed fewer medications,” CEO Beverley Zwicker says. “They’ll be tailored better for them.”

Click to play video: '82-year-old woman falls, waits four hours for ambulance to arrive'

82-year-old woman falls, waits four hours for ambulance to arrive

Zwicker spoke at a health committee meeting held in Halifax on Tuesday. She was joined by Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia CEO Allison Bodnar.

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Bodnar says the shift in workload will help ease the strain on physicians and emergency rooms. She says with more than 300 pharmacies in the province offering extended hours, the work could help prevent delays in treatment.

Bodnar points to the recent success of the pharmacy primary care clinic project. The project allows pharmacists to see patients with common illnesses, as well as prescribe and manage medications for minor ailments like eczema and cold sores.

“We know it’s improving access to care — 41,000 services in the first six months of the project,” says Bodnar. “Ten thousand strep assessments — those are people who would have had to go to an ER or urgent care centre.”

However, the groups say in order to continue to expand the powers of pharmacists, the one-patient one-record system needs to be in place.

“Virtual care, mobile care. We have the new urgent care centres, primary care clinics, we have family physicians, we have nurse practitioners, and all of these people have their own patient records,” says Bodnar. “They’re not accessible by anyone else.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia launches pharmacy primary care clinic pilot project'

Nova Scotia launches pharmacy primary care clinic pilot project

They’re also working to address recruitment challenges.

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Bodnar says a recent initiative covering the cost of education for continuing care assistants and a salary increase pulled workers away.

“I’m going to visit the Eastern College class that once had a couple of classes,” she says “I’m going to visit the class of seven for this year, of which maybe half will go to licence.”

The groups are developing a recruitment campaign and are streamlining the licensing process for pharmacy assistants.

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