CEO's Message: Resiliency the hallmark of B.C. pharmacists

Updated on July 16, 2021 (Originally posted on February 4, 2021) The Tablet

For most, January is a time of renewal. A time to shake-off the cobwebs and look ahead to the year that will be. For me, it is also a reminder to reflect back to when I joined the BCPhA in 2012, and to examine where we are today.

The year 2012 was one of great upset for the Association and our members. In February 2012, the agreement we had with government was abruptly cancelled. We were thrown into chaos, tagged with the failure to meet cost saving goals in the agreement that were directly related to generic drug cost savings for government—over which we had no control. To say that our relationship with government was tense would be an understatement.

The road to rebuild trust with government was arduous. Our strategy to rebuild trust back to a place of mutual regard was driven by demonstrating pharmacists’ ability to serve the public interest and to raise the bar for how pharmacists were valued. Coming out of 2012, two key issues dogged the profession: non-compliance with PharmaCare agreements and the methadone program. In the case of the former, audit teams in the ministry believed some pharmacies were knowingly going off-side and not meeting the terms of the agreement. And in the case of the methadone program, a handful of bad actors created a perception that many saw the program as a stream of easy revenue where patient care was a distant second.

Through innovation and hard work, the Association has helped to address both of these major reputational threats. The development of the regulatory compliance boot camp program helped members understand their contractual agreements with government and armed members with tools to track compliance. While audits still happen, their impact has been cut dramatically. We proved to government that our members are partners in protecting public funds. The OAT training program set the standard for pharmacist training on par with prescribers. Our ability to partner with the government and organizations like BCCSU in developing the program was new territory. It now stands as the only program of its kind in the country. 

The 2020/2021 flu season, meanwhile, will stand as an example of pharmacists answering the call—long after COVID becomes a bad memory. The Minister of Health called upon pharmacists to help immunize record-numbers of the public and well over a million people received their flu shot from their community pharmacist. This has earned the profession the recognition of the Ministry, an important deposit in our reputational bank.

This year will bring many unexpected challenges. 

The task of a COVID-19 immunization program is immense. I know that every pharmacist is anxious to do their part. We have the opportunity to once again benefit the public interest. And if the last nine years have taught me anything, it is that I know pharmacists are resilient, committed and that the job before them will get done. 

Geraldine Vance
BC Pharmacy Association

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