Access to health care is a major concern on the Island, with more than 10,000 Islanders living without a family doctor.
One way to improve access to health care is by better utilizing pharmacists.
A national survey released March 27 found that 93 per cent of Atlantic Canadians polled identify pharmacists as highly skilled and knowledgeable health-care professionals, and 90 per cent believe pharmacists have the training and knowledge to deliver more services than they usually do.
Pharmacists on P.E.I. are currently underutilized due to restrictions placed on them by provincial legislation.
Island pharmacists can currently assess and prescribe for 30 common conditions – including mild acne, diarrhea and sore throat – but Islanders have to pay out of pocket for this service.
Pharmacist assessments are not currently considered a covered service in this province, which is the case when Islanders visit other health-care professionals, including walk-in clinics, family physicians, nurse practitioners and emergency room settings.
Since 2007, Alberta pharmacists have had the ability to independently prescribe prescription medications, other than narcotics and controlled substances, to treat the vast majority of health conditions, with collaboration always top of mind.
Expanding pharmacist scope of practice would allow the 48 pharmacies on P.E.I. to become primary care centres, providing a wider range of care options to Islanders.
The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association recognizes the larger role that pharmacists can play and would like a seat at the table to assist government in the development of health-care policy.
Election platforms referencing better utilization of pharmacists to date have been vague. Further clarification has been requested from each party, by way of a policy questionnaire. Results will be shared with the public in the coming days.
By allowing pharmacists to manage even more conditions, so much more could be done to help reduce physician appointment wait times and to keep non-urgent complaints from overcrowding emergency rooms.