BC Pharmacy Association hosts town hall to gather members’ input

May 15, 2020

The BCPhA hosted an all-member telephone town hall in March so members could ask questions about the Association’s priorities. In attendance were BCPhA CEO Geraldine Vance, President Keith Shaw and government relations consultant Bill Tieleman. 

For those who missed the town hall, here are some of the questions asked, and their answers. 

Can the Association advocate for enhanced prescribing and e-prescribing in light of the COVID-19 situation?

Geraldine Vance: The primary obstacle to any prescribing authority lies with the Health Professions Act. In the HPA it’s embedded that prescribers are defined, and we are not amongst them. There are certainly public health acts and all kinds of things that can take place in a crisis. We saw the opening-up of authority and opportunities for how to practice during the wildfire crisis. In terms of during the crisis, might there be a way around that through a declaration of public health emergency? Absolutely. But I want to paint for people, at the root of the prescribing issue, is that it’s not allowed through the HPA, and that’s a big hill to climb. That’s where the barrier starts. 

The other challenge for us and one we face with government all the time, is that the College took a position that pharmacist prescribing should happen only in interdisciplinary teams, which for all practical purposes means inside hospital environments.

What is the Association doing on increasing dispensing fees?

Keith Shaw: The dispensing fee increase is a very logical way to solve many of the issues we have. We need the income and the resources to invest in our businesses and our people. There has always been effort on the part of the BCPhA to move the dispensing fee issue before government. After the last pan-
Canadian pricing agreement, we were working very hard with the Minister and the government to increase dispensing fees for B.C. pharmacists. We were very close. Except, at the last minute, the minister decided not to do it. That’s not something we at the Association control. We had everything teed up and it didn’t go through. I can tell you, there is constant conversation at the Association, engagement with members, organization, at the board level, ensuring that this priority is never put on the backburner.

What is the background on pharmacists working in primary care in British Columbia?

Geraldine Vance: In terms of primary care, the role of 
pharmacists and how we fill that in primary care is a hot topic. This provincial government has made a strong commitment in improving access to primary care and their focus largely has been in increasing the number of and access to family doctors.
If you look at what the health minister’s primary vehicle for achieving that goal is, it has been the creation of Urgent Primary Care Centres. Now 15 in total are planned across the province.

These centres are really designed to function with integrated teams, but when we hear the list of the integrated teams, they include nurses, nurse practitioners, and to a much lesser degree, non-dispensing clinical pharmacists. The issue for the majority of our members is, how can community pharmacists meet those objectives in primary care that the minister has set? Our care delivery system doesn’t really mesh with this system of having all practices under one roof.

We’ve made a number of proposals about how we have a great deal to offer in terms of filling the gap in primary care, however, our inability as a sector to respond to the minister’s decision, I can assure you, is an increasing point of irritation. 

Would achieving minor ailment prescribing take time away from pharmacists’ other work, such as how vaccinations currently require more of a pharmacists’ time than the compensation is worth?

Keith Shaw: For me personally, as a pharmacist, taking the high road and supporting patients through difficult times is an opportunity to showcase to our public our capability and how important we are to them in our health-care system. I recognize there are many opinions around this, and what’s a reasonable level of intervention before you say: that’s enough, I’m giving it away here. That’s a discussion we’ve had over the years. At a time of crisis, when patients, some of whom I know are personally coming to me for help, I’m bound to help them first, not just alone but with the support from our Association and others as our advocate, we’ll find a way to move our scope forward appropriately, and be compensated for it. 

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.