Pharmacists in British Columbia are asking the provincial government to allow them to prescribe drugs in order to alleviate pressure on the health care system.
The BC Pharmacy Association has suggested to government its pharmacists could take on prescribing authority for a range of self-diagnosable, limited conditions.
Currently, pharmacists in British Columbia cannot prescribe medications but can do some renewals. If a prescription is more than a year old, it cannot be renewed and a doctor must review it.
“We firmly believe there remains untapped potential for community pharmacists to respond to the needs that remain in finding more primary care for British Columbians,” the British Columbia Pharmacy Association stated in a submission to the province’s budget consultation.
“What we propose is not new or revolutionary. Rather we are recommending B.C. move forward with an increased scope of practice for pharmacists.”
In Nova Scotia, for example, pharmacists are able to prescribe for urinary tract infections.
The argument from the pharmacy association is that shifting the power of prescriptions would allow doctors to focus on caring for patients and not administrative work.
There are currently nearly one million British Columbians without a family doctor.
“I think it may be one of the solutions, to alleviate some of the pressure on the health care system, some provinces are doing it already,” People’s Pharmacy in Colwood pharmacist Yoshi Ito said.
“It would relieve some stress, maybe a lot, family doctors are over capacity. As pharmacists we know the medical history of our patients.”
The provincial government is in the midst of overhauling many parts of the family medicine model.
On Wednesday, the provincial government and Doctors of BC announced $118 million in short-term funding to help provide stability to struggling family doctors.
The funds will be allocated to support family doctors and medical clinics with operational business costs. The program will begin on Oct. 1 and will only be available for four months, ending on Jan. 31, 2023.
Dix said he will also announce a new compensation model for family doctors in the fall and hopes it will encourage more doctors to choose family practices.
The province has not ruled out the shift to allow pharmacists to prescribe.
“We are going to continue to work on team based care, and that everyone is working to the fullness of their abilities,” Dix said.
Doctors of BC president Ramneek Dosanjh is not supportive of the province making the move.
The concern from doctors is that a shift could take away some of the primary interaction points between doctor and patient.
“Prescribing and giving other options at this time is not the way to do things. We have a crumbling foundation of our primary care system and that is what we need to support,” Dosanjh said.
“Robust support for those docs that are bleeding on the ground, those family docs that can’t keep their clinic doors open because of the rising cost of business — that’s imperative that we do look for alternative solutions and leaning all of our allied health care professionals to support the care that’s done in the community.”
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