Not in our wildest dreams did any of us expect that we would have marked the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic with no clear path forward.
Community pharmacy has continued to set and reset to meet the changing landscape and now is getting ready for what comes next. For me, the biggest takeaway of the last two years is how nimble pharmacy has been. Outside of the acute care system, I would argue that community pharmacy as a profession has been the most responsive and adaptive among British Columbia’s health-care professionals. From drug shortages, to changing needs and criteria for vaccines, the sector has made it happen regardless of the challenge.
As is the case in all other segments of the health-care system, the last two years have also opened some cracks in community pharmacy, showing the impact of the last decade of cost pressures on the sector. While pharmacists and all other health-care professionals have made it work and looked after their patients, it has come at a cost. It is clear how much more is required to ensure our health care system is ready to weather the next storm.
I had the privilege to address the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health on Mar. 2, 2022. The Committee is currently examining issues related to health human resources (HHR) in our health-care system. Not surprisingly, a great deal of focus is placed on how to recruit and retain physicians and nurses. There is no doubt this focus is critical, but I proposed that in the context of looking at stabilizing our health professional workforce, we need to ensure all professionals are working to their maximum scope.
I have often said that I believe community pharmacists are the most under-utilized member of the health-care team. Provinces have dabbled in bits and pieces of new authorities for pharmacists but this has resulted in a patchwork of services without standard compensation for clinical services delivered in community pharmacy. We need a national scope of practice that applies in each province, practice guidelines, and a remuneration model that reflects the expertise being provided and the value pharmacists provide to patients.
I believe now is the time to tackle this issue. As efforts are being made to address HHR in the health-care sector and as conversations begin about what a national pharmacare program will look like, it is well past time to put pharmacists at the decision-making table. We need to have a commitment to fully enable pharmacists to be equal partners in the delivery of primary care, and to ensure there is compensation that supports them.
Chief Executive Officer
BC Pharmacy Association