VANCOUVER, B.C. (April 18, 2019) – The government’s new agreement with B.C. doctors reflects its recognition of rising costs and inflation when operating a health-care clinic. Included in the $331 million three-year contract is a bonus to help with rising overhead and other costs of running an office.
B.C. community pharmacists are pleased to see the government’s acknowledgment of these costs. However, pharmacists, who are dependent on the fees set by the provincial government, face similar inflation costs but have not seen an increase in any fees since 2011.
The government sets payment for pharmacists such as the standard dispensing fees, long-term care and rural incentive fees. In fact, B.C. community pharmacists’ fees are far lower than Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and most of the Maritime provinces and deserve a raise.
And this agreement does little to address access to care, which pharmacists have been helping to deliver, especially in times of health emergencies – like providing access to free naloxone kits, opioid agonist treatment, annual flu shots and immunizations, especially during the recent measles outbreak.
“The Horgan government commitment to investing in health care is very encouraging,” says Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association, which represents more than 3,200 community pharmacists across British Columbia. “But it is time to reach beyond the traditional primary care model of supporting the 9-to-5 family physician office model and provide patients to access to care when and where they need that care. Paying more money to doctors to deliver the same care can’t be the only solution.”
B.C.’s community pharmacists believe the next step in responding to primary care access issues needs to be to allow pharmacists to prescribe for common conditions, as is already being done in eight other provinces.
In an IPSOS Reid poll of 1,000 British Columbians conducted in January 2019 for the BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA), nearly eight-in-ten respondents said they have a family doctor. However, even people who have a family doctor use other parts of the system to access primary care services. In the previous two years more than half (53%) of those polled said they had visited a walk-in-clinic and 40% had been to the ER.
Pharmacists have become an increasingly popular choice for patients in accessing primary care needs like immunizations because of their accessibility and convenience.
During last year’s flu season, pharmacists gave more than 660,000 flu shots to British Columbians wanting one. That represents nearly 45 per cent of all flu vaccines given in the province. This year, pharmacists have already provided more than 705,000 flu vaccines.
And during the recent measles outbreak in Metro Vancouver, community pharmacists quickly provided more than 1,000 shots of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in a week for patients seeking booster shots or immunizations
British Columbia is only one of two provinces in all of Canada that does not allow pharmacists to prescribe for common conditions like cold sores, urinary tract infections, acne, birth control or pink eye, to name a few. This week Ontario, the other province, introduced plans to allow pharmacists to prescribe for common ailments
Research has shown that allowing pharmacists to prescribe for these conditions frees up doctors’ time to focus on more complex cases; can reduce visits to overcrowded emergency rooms and is seen as convenient and accessible for patients who need immediate assistance after doctors’ offices and walk-in clinics are closed.
In the 2019 IPSOS poll more than 80% of British Columbians support allowing pharmacists to consult and prescribe in limited conditions.
“No one can argue against supporting BC’s doctors, but B.C.’s pharmacists encourage the government make the needed changes to allow pharmacists to continue to increase access to care for patients,” Vance said.