Left to right: BCPhA Controller Gary Mui, CEO Geraldine Vance, President Annette Robinson and Legal Counsel Sara Levine at the 2021 BCPhA virtual annual meeting in June.
On June 17, 2021, the Association held its Annual General Meeting and shared updates with members in attendance on the Association’s work over the past year. The meeting included presentations from President Annette Robinson and CEO Geraldine Vance.
President Annette Robinson:
"After the start of 2020, I don’t think any one of us could have imagined what last year looked like for pharmacies. In March 2020, all our roles changed. Patients came to pharmacies asking for early refills, pharmacists were trying to manage drug shortages while doctors offices were closing. When fall came, we were managing a flu season during a pandemic and delivered more than 1 million flu shots. Since COVID-19 hit, the BC Pharmacy Association has had to shift priorities with nearly all advocacy efforts put towards helping the government understand the importance of community pharmacy and the impact the pandemic has had on our profession.
Due to provincial health officer’s orders our face-to-face conference could not proceed, but the Association quickly pivoted to offer more and more webinars and virtual training. The staff kept members up to date with daily COVID-19 and flu news updates. Meanwhile, the team worked hard to develop strong relationships with decision-makers that helped lead to pharmacy’s involvement in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout campaign, even though the province was on track to use mass clinics."
CEO Geraldine Vance:
"It’s hard to remember what work was like pre-pandemic. As was the case for many of our members, COVID-19 has felt all-consuming for the Association. The ground seems to shift on a daily and nearly hourly basis. Certainly, in 2020, our efforts were focused on working with government to ensure pharmacies were in the best position to deliver patient care under very difficult circumstances. We were able to have a close eye on the evolving situation because the Ministry chose to add the BC Pharmacy Association to the province’s COVID-19 response team. Our work in that regard included taking the lead on developing an emergency response plan for pharmacy — the entire sector — and we created an opportunity for the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management (CAPDM) to be part of this planning work. This allowed us to raise direct operational issues that faced pharmacies across the province.
For example, we advocated for some compensation to offset additional costs pharmacies face for things like physical barriers in their dispensary, we secured reimbursement, while modest, for up to $155 for pharmacies’ physical barriers. We also advocated on emerging issues related to distribution challenges in the early days after the pandemic was declared. Our priority was to ensure that members would be protected from audit penalties when they needed to dispense less than the usual 90 days supply. While B.C. took a very different approach on this issue, we were able to get the ministry to allow pharmacies the flexibility to dispense quantities based on their own individual inventory. It is important to remember that this flexibility still is in place while the pandemic continues to be a public health emergency.
Our efforts on easing operational challenges in the COVID-19 environment resulted in pharmacists being able to increase the emergency refill limits, removing requirements for patient signatures as part of the witnessing requirements and for delivery of OAT medications.
Another key development in 2020 was that we received an agreement in principle from the Deputy Minister of Health to move forward with developing an implementation plan for direct distribution of vaccines. We have certainly seen that proceed this year with the COVID0-19 vaccine.
The biggest highlight for 2020 was the increase in these injections fee for all publicly funded immunizations. In the fall, we saw the government approve a 20% increase to the fee, moving from $10 to $12.10. It was retroactive to all publicly funded flu shots, of which as we know, pharmacists gave more than a million. The work we did in 2020 really set the stage for 2021, which we have seen has also been a tumultuous year, with questions around the vaccine role and the impact on worldwide supply.
We continue to work hard for members to ensure that your voices are represented to decision makers at the highest levels. We will continue to do this through the rest of the remainder of the pandemic."
BC Pharmacy Association completes electronic voting transition
Over the last three years, the BCPhA has been transitioning to electronic voting for Board of Directors elections. After the success of the past two elections, which used electronic methods, the BCPhA Board of Directors has recommended to the membership that the final stage of the transition be implemented. These changes enable the elections to be held electronically and ends the practice of mailing ballots to members. The resolution to enable these changes was introduced at the 2021 Annual General Meeting, and passed with 78% in favour.