Mar 28, 2018

By Barret Procyshyn

It is March and if you have been on our Facebook page, I am sure you are aware it is Pharmacist Awareness Month. This year's theme for March was "Think Pharmacists". The spotlight is on how accessible a pharmacist is in almost every community in Canada. Pharmacists are also aiming to gain attention to the fact that we can and are willing to do more for our health Care system. At a time when extra funding is lacking, physicians' workloads are maxed out and brand name drug manufacturers keep increasing prices; along with an aging population, health care is in a tough spot. Rather than just dish out more money without planning for the future, we need to start paying more attention to health promotion. We also need to look at the resources we currently have and see if we can maximize them. This concept includes letting health care professionals practice to their full scope, or to their fullest potential. Just like we let nurses now prescribe as nurse practitioners, and use dieticians as diabetes experts, pharmacists can play a bigger role. Recent surveys show more than 90% of Manitobans believe pharmacists play an essential and important role in the healthcare system.

Right now, in almost every town in Manitoba, pharmacists in hospitals and community pharmacies have the training and regulatory authority to provide health care services well beyond traditional drug dispensing or what most refer to as "giving out prescriptions". Pharmacists can, for example, provide extensive patient counselling, prescribe for self-limiting conditions such as mild eczema or acne, adapt prescriptions when necessary, and administer injections. Most pharmacists, including your Dauphin Clinic Pharmacists have tried to embrace this expanded role. This winter we have provided approximately 1000 pneumonia and influenza vaccinations. While prescribing is new, we have pharmacists that can currently prescribe prescription medication to help you quit smoking.

As Manitoba's population ages and physician workloads increase, pharmacists provide a viable alternative to physicians in the diagnosis and treatment for many minor ailments or self-limiting conditions. A self-limiting condition in Manitoba can be explained with examples like smoking cessation, dermatitis, fungal infections, hemorrhoids, vomiting in pregnancy, in addition to eczema and acne which were mentioned above. In some provinces, assessments and prescribing by a pharmacist even cover urinary tract infections. Are Pharmacists trying to take over what doctors do? No. We are trying to help out with the small minor things, so when a complex health situation arises you have a doctor available to help.

Pharmacists are now also able to expand their training to be able to order lab testing and prescribe medical devices like diabetes and asthma aids. Another important service pharmacists can offer are medication reviews. Reports show two thirds of seniors are currently taking more than five prescription drugs. A medication review goes over your current medication and makes sure it's the right medication for you at the right dose at the right times and it is not interfering with other medications or your daily functioning.

Currently in almost every other province, except Manitoba these services are covered by provincial health coverage. Just like when you go into a walk in clinic or emergency room and do not pay, they are covered. However; in Manitoba, we do not have this necessity. You have to pay out of pocket for these services. Some refer to it as two tiered health care!

Public funding for pharmacy services will reduce waiting times in clinics and provide an accessible health care alternative for Manitobans, especially for those living in rural areas where accessing physicians after hours or during weekends can be challenging. Funded pharmacy services will reduce medication errors, hospitalizations and make primary health care more accessible for Manitoba families. More Manitobans are taking care of both aging parents and young children. For many, a pharmacist is the first line of health care and often more accessible than doctors who are under increasing pressure given the demands of our aging population. Pharmacy services including medication reviews; assessment and prescribing for minor ailments; smoking cessation services; immunizations; and, prescription adaptation and renewals should be covered.

Almost 80% of Manitobans believe pharmacists should be given more authority to improve health outcomes and Manitobans are confident we can actually reduce healthcare costs. Next time you need health care, Think Pharmacists.


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