Pharmacists Ready to Play a Larger Role

Apr 16, 2019

By Barret Procyshyn

One of my spare time "hobbies" outside of the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy has been volunteering on the Pharmacists Manitoba Board. Our board's vision is to unify and advance the pharmacy profession, while inspiring excellence in pharmacy practice and promote the value of pharmacists' professional services. I strongly believe if we maximize the health services our pharmacists in Manitoba can offer, it would significantly improve health care in Manitoba, especially in rural Manitoba. Here is an open editorial I wrote which was recently published by CBC and the Winnipeg Sun.

It's no secret that Manitoba's public health care system is currently undergoing massive - and much needed - changes. This transformation is rooted in the provincial government's commitment to improve outcomes for patients across the province. With so many indicators showing that Manitoba was one the worst performing provinces in Canada, an overhaul of this size and scope was a logical step. But it certainly isn't easy.

Manitoba's pharmacists appreciate that the challenges facing our healthcare sector are significant, and that the government is doing everything in its power to stabilize our public finances while improving patient care. Pharmacists Manitoba is committed to working with the government in these efforts. Indeed, our members have already seen changes impacting their practice.

Many of the reforms we are seeing are focused on the acute-care aspects of healthcare - in particular, hospitals. This makes sense, as major cost pressures are found in that part of the system. Hospitals are important. But at the same time, every connection that Manitoba families have with the medical system should be considered. Pharmacists Manitoba believes a broader look at the system should be taken, and that our members can play a much larger and more impactful role improving health care outcomes for Manitoba families.

With more than 1,200 community pharmacists and over 400 pharmacies across Manitoba, we are easily the most accessible part of the public health care system and, in some rural and remote communities, the only part remaining. Pharmacists are dedicated to patient-centered care and committed to making a difference in our patients' lives. And we are continuously looking for ways to improve pharmacy care

A survey conducted by Abacus Data in March 2019 found an overwhelming majority of Manitobans were in favour of pharmacists prescribing immunizations (93%), birth control (84%), and urinary tract infections (83%). A strong majority also feel the provincial government should pay pharmacists to assess and prescribe for these health services (83%). Moreover, pharmacists in general continue to be viewed positively by Manitobans (93%) and 84% are in favor of finding ways to reduce visits to emergency rooms and the overall stress on the primary health-care system.

In Saskatchewan and Alberta, for example, pharmacists are stepping up to play a larger role, prescribing for a broad range of conditions including birth control and urinary tract infections, and that has improved access to health-care services.

And across the country, many provinces are working with pharmacists to add prescribing for immunizations to their scope of practice.

In nearly every other provincial jurisdiction, pharmacists are doing more for the families they serve and, in the process, improving health-care outcomes. This can and should be happening in Manitoba, and it needs to start with a positive, balanced relationship between pharmacists and government.

For too long, pharmacists have been seen through the lens of the provincial drug plan. This needs to change, and if it does, we can and will be able to do more. If it does not, pharmacists will be faced with tough choices. Many already are.

In fact, pharmacy access hours have already begun to change in our province - a trend that, if it continues, will adversely affect Manitoba families. We want to work with the provincial government to achieve greater transparency, better value for money and improved sustainability. But for that to happen, it's time for the decision makers at the Manitoba Legislature to update their perspective, build new relationships and let pharmacists fulfil their potential. This is a tremendous opportunity for patients and taxpayers. We invite the Manitoba government to work with us to bring it to fruition.


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