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Nova Scotia

Pilot project to allow pharmacists to treat patients for minor ailments, chronic diseases

Beginning Wednesday, February 1, 11 pharmacies across the province will begin booking appointments for people to be treated for minor ailments or chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma and COPD.

It is a pilot project aimed at giving pharmacists the opportunity to use their full training – often referred to as ‘practice scope’ – while relieving the pressure on doctors. Pharmacies selected for the project must have additional staff as well as additional space that can be allocated to view patients in a clinical setting within the store.

“We are building and testing a system where pharmacists can use all of their training and skills to give people the care they need, in a place that is often the closest place to home — their pharmacy,” Health-Care said. and Wellness Secretary Michelle Thompson on Tuesday’s announcement. “By doing so, we’re helping people stay healthy and freeing up emergency rooms for emergencies.”

Thompson said the pilot is being evaluated to see if it can be duplicated at hundreds of other pharmacies in the province. Click here to visit the website for more information on what services are offered and how to make an appointment online or by phone.

“Time will tell how effective it is”

With 129,000 people currently without a family doctor, the bulk of them in the Halifax Regional Municipality, where the population is booming, Lorelei Nicoll, the Liberal MLA for Cole Harbour, said the expansion of pharmacist-based healthcare needs to happen even faster.

“In the HRM itself, there are only three locations,” said Nicoll. “It’s a pilot project and perhaps one of the limitations is whether other pharmacies can have the space and expand their services. Time will tell how effective it is.”

A sign that says "Book your appointment for" Prescription renewals for all medications, birth control, uncomplicated bladder infections, psychiatric services, chronic disease management, immunizations and injections, strep throat, minor ailments, heartburn, allergies, cold sores and more.
A list of the mild and chronic ailments that some Nova Scotia pharmacists can now treat. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

For the past 10 years, since the Dexter government expanded the scope of its capabilities, pharmacist Alvin Thompkins of Wyse Road Shoppers Drug Mart in Dartmouth has been helping customers with cold sores, eczema, heartburn and joint pain. During the COVID period, pharmacists have become the go-to healthcare provider to book vaccination appointments for COVID, influenza and shingles – some require the customer to pay a fee.

More recently, the province began reimbursing pharmacists for the cost of providing contraceptive services, renewing prescriptions and preventing Lyme disease [injecting an antibiotic after a tick bite]and treatment of urinary tract infections.

sore throat? Ask a pharmacist

Beginning February 1, Thompkins will also be permitted to use recently provided training in diagnosing and treating strep throat.

“I’ve been a pharmacist for 22 years and our role in healthcare has changed a lot in that time,” Thompkins told reporters. “These new clinics will allow me to use my skills, training and knowledge like never before. I look forward to the clinic opening.”

Pharmacists in Nova Scotia are now allowed to provide more services to patients than anywhere else in Canada, according to Bev Zwicker, registrar for the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists. She and the CEO of the provincial pharmacy association believe it will be easier to recruit more pharmacists to work here since job satisfaction should be higher in Nova Scotia, where these professionals can leverage more of their post-secondary education.

“We are excited that pharmacists will be able to practice to the fullest,” said Allison Bodnar, CEO of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia (PANS). “These clinics will be a faster and easier way for people to get treatment and stay healthy.”

Bodnar said the pharmacies in the demonstration project are each being paid $7,000 a month to see patients booking appointments at the clinic. The Department of Health is providing $1 million to carry out this project, which builds on work underway at Lawtons Drugs in New Glasgow, Truro, New Minas and Lower Sackville over the past year.

Project a piece of “transformation” in healthcare

Thompson said this project is part of the “transformation” of the healthcare system. Gary Burrill, the NDP member representing Halifax Chebucto, said one of the key things about the announcement was that people would no longer have to pay out of pocket.

“We saw that pharmacists could provide services but they had to be paid outside of the MSI system. That meant there was a financial barrier to accessing care,” Burrill said. “So the essence of this announcement is that money does not move between patients and providers. This will be a public service.”

For patients without a family doctor or nurse, being able to make an appointment with a pharmacist for a minor or chronic problem can be a great help. For patients with access to a doctor or nurse, the pharmacist must send a record of each treatment or prescription to the patient’s GP.

Here is a list of pharmacy locations with available appointments on February 1st:

  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 118 Wyse Rd, Dartmouth
  • Warden Bedford, 535 Larry Uteck Blvd., Bedford
  • North Sydney PharmaChoice, 107 King St., North Sydney
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 254 Prince St, Sydney
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 912 East River Rd, New Glasgow
  • The Medicine Shoppe, 664 Prince St., Truro
  • Wilson’s Pharmasave, 213 Commercial St., Berwick
  • Bridgewater Guardian Pharmacy, 42 Glen Allan Dr., Bridgewater
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1124 Bridge St., Greenwood
  • TLC Pharmasave, 157 Water St, Shelburne
  • Stadtdrogerie, Hauptstr. 369, Yarmouth

Brookline Pharmacy at 105-6 Bloom Lane, Bedford will have appointments later in February.

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