It’s no secret that there are gaps in primary health care in Nova Scotia.
A team of pharmacy staffers in the Annapolis Valley are not taking that lying down.
Michael McIntyre, pharmacy manager at Wilson’s Pharmasave, and the team of pharmacists he works with are looking to provide as much service to the community as they can to, in part, make up for service gaps impacting patients.
“We’re working within the full scope of our profession, providing all the services we are able to provide,” McIntyre said.
These services include basic injections, prescription renewals and minor ailment assessments.
“In our capacity as pharmacists we’re able to provide services like these. It’s been within our professional scope for several years,” McIntyre said. “It’s not what all pharmacists are able to do, but most in Nova Scotia would be able to offer all of these services.”
The scope of services they are able to provide is slowly broadening.
McIntyre noted an example of this, referring to changes to prescription renewal laws last February that “opened up a bit” of what pharmacists can do with renewals.
“We are more able to renew a larger variety of medications for a longer period of time,” McIntyre said. “Now we can provide prescriptions for most maintenance medications for a period of up to six months.”
Other services, including minor ailment and injection administration, “have stayed pretty much the same for the last three to four years,” MacIntyre said.
But that will soon change as well.
“At the beginning of December, that’s opening up a bit more. We’re going to be able to provide assessments for acute urinary tract infections, and shingles outbreaks and provide prescriptions for birth control medication,” he said.
HEALTH CARE CRUNCH
McIntyre and his fellow pharmacists at Wilson’s taking on more responsibilities is the natural response to an increasing number of residents seeking out services they’d normally look for from another primary care provider, such as local doctors who have retired and not been replaced yet.
“The biggest development was last fall when Dr. MacInnis and Dickson closed their practice after retiring,” McIntyre explained. “It left quite a few people without doctors.”
Although he is glad pharmacists can help out where they can, McIntyre said the biggest drawback to providing expanded services is that they are not able to bill Nova Scotia Pharmacare like a physician would be able to do at their practice
“For that reason, it’s an out of pocket expense for us to do a minor ailment assessment or prescription renewal,” McIntyre said. “If the province was able to establish some sort of funding for it, we’d be able to further expand, take more people on board and hopefully relieve a bit of the strain on the other parts of the health-care system.”
McIntyre said it’s satisfying to be able to fill as much of the need as they can.
“If I was able to do an assessment of someone’s shingles case, they can come in, get it diagnosed and treated – and it’s not only saving them a two to three-hour emergency department wait, it means someone with a more serious issue isn’t going to be waiting in line behind them,” he said. “It reinforces the good that it does when people are taking these services upon them.
“It adds a bit in terms of job satisfaction. It’s kind of nice to be able to help people.”
The rewards for their work that McIntyre and the others at Wilson’s receive are not only emotional.
Their willingness to help was recently acknowledged at large when they received Pharmacy Team of the Year Awards by the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.
“It’s an award recognizing a single pharmacy team within the province that most exemplifies the pharmacy practice,” McIntyre said. “It recognizes a team-based approach to pharmacy services, and overall high-level patient care.”
What did it take to win this award?
McIntyre has a few ideas.
He lists a project that involves the ongoing monitoring and treatment of patients taking blood thinners as one example.
“We monitor bloodwork and ongoing maintenance of prescriptions,” McIntyre said. “We’re kind of fulfilling the role of a family doctor.”
McIntyre said other factors were the overall promotion of the pharmacy and professional services available therein.
“I guess it’s all about working in a team-based way, with each and every member on board with the provision of services like these.”