See the Association's highlights of 2023

Updated on April 2, 2024 (Originally posted on February 1, 2024) The Tablet

Last year was a big one for community pharmacists in British Columbia. From a significant increase to long-term care fees to the launch of the minor ailments and contraception service (MACS), 2023 was a year of advancement for the profession.

Here are some of the top highlights in the past year.

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Premier David Eby (at podium) speaks at a press conference in December 2023, where he discussed the significant impact of the pharmacy minor ailments and contraception service.
BC Government Photo

Launching Minor Ailments Assessments in B.C.
On June 1, British Columbia became the latest province to enable community pharmacists to assess and prescribe for 21 minor ailments and contraception. Since then, between June 1 and Nov. 30, community pharmacists performed more than 195,000 MACS assessments. Of the minor ailment assessments, approximately 79 per cent resulted in a prescription and 10 per cent resulted in advice to see another health-care provider. From May 31 through September, the BC Pharmacy Association ran a province-wide advertising campaign that spans television, radio, newspapers and social media. As of Sept. 1, this significant advertising push has reached more than 90 per cent of British Columbians age 18 and up. In total, the advertisements have been seen more than 5.5 million times, and have reached more than 3.3 million British Columbians.

Negotiating Compensation for MACS
Reviewing minor ailment assessment fees across Canada, the Association negotiated a $20 assessment fee for MACS. This fee is based on the assessment service, and is provided whether a prescription is issued or not. Pharmacies can to claim the fee for any of the 21 minor ailments and contraception. The list of 21 minor ailments is one of the largest in the country for pharmacist prescribing.

Long-term Care Fee Increase
Since 2021, the Association has been advocating for an increase to Plan B long-term care (LTC) fees, which have been unchanged since 2010. On March 1, 2023, following extensive consultations, PharmaCare increased the LTC fee to $65 per bed/month, a 50 per cent increase from the previous fee. The Plan B fee covers the full cost of eligible prescription drugs, medical supplies and devices for the nearly 32,000 people in B.C. living in LTC and assisted living facilities. 

Engaging with First Nations Communities
In May, the BC Pharmacy Association joined the College of Pharmacists, First Nations Health Authority, the University of B.C. and community pharmacies around Prince Rupert and Williams Lake to collaborate with First Nations communities on health-care access. The purpose of the sessions was to create a safe space to share awareness in pharmacy service and access challenges, and to discuss ways to improve the experiences of Indigenous clients in pharmacy. During the visits, the group visited First Nations community health centres in Terrace, Prince Rupert and Williams Lake, as well as Yunise’tin Health Fair in Alexis Creek.

Connecting community pharmacists and MLAs
In 2023, the Association held tours with a total of 22 MLAs in communities including Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Victoria, North Vancouver, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, Langley, Chilliwack and the West Kootenays. These tours were held throughout the year and included meetings with the Premier of B.C., eight cabinet ministers, and four ministers of state.

Record Attendance at BC Pharmacy Conference
This year’s BC Pharmacy Association annual conference was held virtually on May 11, 2023, and it was the most well-attended of any of the Association’s conferences to date – at its peak, the conference saw close to 900 attendees. More than 1,100 people registered for the conference.

Advocating for Pharmacists Beyond COVID-19
On June 13, CEO Geraldine Vance spoke to the B.C. Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to highlight the work of pharmacists in filling the gaps in care from the COVID-19 pandemic onward. One of the areas the Association would like to see grow in scope for pharmacists is allowing for point-of-care testing in pharmacy. Another key ask is allowing pharmacists to order lab tests, which will enable pharmacists to access clinical information to ensure patients who do not have a primary care prescriber can receive renewals of their chronic medications for up to two years.

Respiratory illness vaccinations in pharmacy
Community pharmacies hit record numbers of vaccinations delivered in the first weeks of the fall immunization campaign and by Dec. 31, 2023 pharmacists in B.C. delivered more than 2.3 million COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. Community pharmacies continue to be the biggest immunizers in the province, with pharmacies delivering a large majority of B.C.'s COVID and flu shots. 

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.