‘It’s a little bit of a challenge’: Local pharmacists adjusting to new prescribing powers

Ontario pharmacist’s new powers to prescribe have been welcomed by many, but the transition hasn’t been without some bumps in the road.

 

Managing newly expanded care and patient expectation has created some challenges for independent pharmacies in the Waterloo region.

It has now been three weeks since the province allowed pharmacists to prescribe medication for 13 common ailments meant to alleviate healthcare backlogs.

“It’s something pharmacists have been sort of trained to do so it was nice to get the authority to do that,” said Michael Pe, a pharmacist at Apothecare Pharmacy.

For some pharmacists like Pe, the transition has been smooth.

“For us specifically, we’re hoping to start promoting it to help increase [the amount of] patients to our pharmacy and access as well,” Pe said.

Other independent pharmacists say the new powers have come with new questions and concerns.

“I think the challenge for independent, rural and stand alone pharmacies is that onus is completely on you,” said Pavithra Ravi, a pharmacist at Northfield Pharmacy. “There has been support, but it does fall a little bit more on the owner and staff to take that onus on so in that sense, it’s a little bit of a challenge.”

Ravi says they’ve also had to contend with an information gap among patients, having to re-explain the extent of the assessment powers.

“Sometimes patients aren’t fully aware what the 13 minor ailments are, so sometimes we’ll have someone come in with something that’s wrong that we can’t support them on,” said Ravi.

Ontario Pharmacists Association head Justin Bates agrees there are unique challenges for smaller pharmacies and says the adjustment period will be different than what’s being seen by larger pharmacy chains.

“Some will take longer to implement this because of lack of resources perhaps,” he said. “We do see some challenges across the system with health human resources.”

The transition can include turning to technology which can be a big task for small pharmacies.

“Online booking systems are really important,” said Bates. “The helped manage the demand and make sure we didn’t have long line-ups at pharmacies so scheduling those times because it does take an average of five to seven minutes to provide the assessment.”

Local pharmacists are continuing to adjust to meet that demand.

“We have the knowledge and skill but there’s more administrative processes that need to be in place for us to do it effectively,” said Pe.

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