In an effort to fight off long wait times at walk-in clinics and provide a solution to a continuing provincial-wide doctor shortage, pharmacists in B.C. are calling on the government to allow them the power to prescribe medications directly to patients.
“I think British Columbians are really struggling getting access to physicians and it’s only going to make it worse if we don’t do something about it now,” said Jason Cridge, a pharmacist at Cridge Family Pharmacy in Victoria.
Currently, B.C. pharmacists are only allowed to fill and renew prescriptions that are signed off by a doctor with a time limit of up to one year after the original prescription date. Narcotics are not included.
However, pharmacists can prescribe medications in emergency situations if it means continuing care for a patient. This came after an announcement by Health Minister Adrian Dix at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adaptions for medications are also allowed in certain situations such as changing dosage levels.
But that’s only a fraction of what some pharmacists can do in other provinces. According to the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Alberta has the most flexibility for pharmacists in Canada.
“Alberta is a good example. There’s actually no restriction on the type of medication pharmacists can prescribe in Alberta,” said Cridge. “It’s just whatever the pharmacists feel comfortable assessing and ultimately prescribing for.”
CHEK News reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment. In part, the ministry says it’s prioritizing improving the existing scope of work that health care professionals already have.
“In that context, the potential roles and functions that pharmacists carry out presently, and what they may be able to do in the future is being reviewed,” said the ministry in an emailed statement.
Liberal MLA for Prince George-Valemount and Health Critic Shirley Bond says it’s time for the government to listen to the suggestions that health care professionals are providing.
“Many of them are burnt out, they are overworked. We have organizations stepping up to say ‘here are some ideas, please consider them,'” said Bond. “We need to look at this from the perspective that what we have is currently not sustainable.”
Cridge believes that pharmacists are prepared to take on the extra responsibility and adds the extra liability of prescribing medication is already present.
“Ultimately, [it’s] no more liability that exists dispensing prescriptions,” added Cridge.