OPA, Neighbourhood Pharmacies rethink pharmacy with new strategy

The Ontario Pharmacists Association and the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada (Neighbourhood Pharmacies) have unveiled a four-point strategy to improve healthcare in Ontario by enabling pharmacists to practice to their fullest extent.

The strategy, known as the Ontario Pharmacy Platform, would:

  • Enable patients to see a trained pharmacist close to home for the assessment and, if necessary, treatment of common ailments such as pink eye, cold sores, acne and uncomplicated skin infections, to name just a few;

  • Allow patients to receive publicly-funded immunizations, such as shingles and pneumonia vaccines for less mobile patients and seniors, from trained pharmacists who already administer flu shots and travel vaccines;

  • Ensure patients' pharmacotherapies are being appropriately monitored in real-time for potential toxicities and effectiveness through pharmacist-administered point-of-care testing such as A1C for diabetes, INR for blood disorders or lipids for cardiovascular health;

  • Provide patients with safety and clinical oversight and the advice and guidance of pharmacists by shifting the dispensing of non-combustible medicinal cannabis products to community pharmacies along with all other prescription products.

"Ontario's pharmacy professionals have so much more to offer the people of this province – beyond their vital role in medication management," said Mike Cavanagh, chair, Ontario Pharmacists Association board of directors. "I know first hand that I am able to provide so much more care to my patients but, unfortunately, I am obliged to refer the patient to their doctor, walk-in clinic or hospital emergency room for many simple and uncomplicated services, all of which means more time and delays for the patient. By rethinking the role of our community pharmacists, and pharmacies as hubs of community healthcare, and enabling them to work to their full scope of their training and expertise, the government could surely help to alleviate many of the very real and frustrating pressures patients face every day within our precious resources and strained health system."

These pressures include delays in getting to see a physician or nurse practitioner when they're needed, and long emergency and clinic wait times for the assessment and treatment of common, uncomplicated ailments. In relieving these and other pressures, pharmacists could free up additional capacity in other parts of the healthcare system while ensuring that excellence in medication management is maintained and enhanced, the groups stated.

"In many other provinces, such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, pharmacies have become health centres where pharmacists have already been leveraged to play an expanded role in the delivery of quality, patient-focused care. Ontario is lagging behind many of these jurisdictions, and Ontarians need their pharmacists to be enabled to deliver more care close to where people live, work, and play – when they need it," said Justin Bates, CEO of the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada.

Ontario's 16,000 pharmacists and 4,600 pharmacy technicians are located across 4,500 pharmacies across Ontario.