This opinion letter appeared in Brunswick News on August 11, 2023.
After reading about Brian and Deanna Cochrane, who are awaiting access to the NB Health Link program (“What’s the holdup? Patients wait for Health Link spaces,” Aug. 3, 2023, TJ online), the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association reached out to let them know patients now have another option for accessing primary health care – their community pharmacy.
The Pharmacist Care Clinic pilot launched on Aug. 1 at two pharmacies – Shoppers Drug Mart on Prospect Street in Fredericton and Jean Coutu on Coverdale Road in Riverview – with four other pilot sites opening at pharmacies around the province on Sept. 18.
To ensure we can help as many people as possible, we ask patients to contact participating pharmacies to make an appointment for health care services offered at the Pharmacist Care Clinic pilot. The Cochranes were able to get an appointment in just a few days.
Patients at these pharmacies will be able to access chronic disease management for diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and cardiovascular disease. Pharmacists will be able to adjust or add medications and order laboratory tests in conjunction with NB Health Link. At this time participating pharmacies will cover the cost of the assessment for the duration of the 12-month pilot, so the only cost to the patient is any prescribed medication.
We have been asked if patients can expect delays when filling prescriptions or accessing other pharmacy services at these pilot sites. It is important to note, the Pharmacist Care Clinics have dedicated space and staff within the pharmacy so there should not be any impact on the usual service you receive at the pharmacy counter.
The pilot also enables pharmacists in these clinics to assess and prescribe for strep throat. The services available at these pilot sites are in addition to the expanded coverage for pharmacy services the provincial government announced in May. New Brunswickers visiting their pharmacies now have the cost covered for assessment of 11 minor ailments, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), skin conditions such as mild to moderate eczema, mild acne and impetigo, and Lyme disease prevention after a high-risk tick bite.
The New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association has been advocating for years for pharmacists to take on a larger role in providing primary care to patients in community pharmacies, and this new Pharmacist Care Clinic pilot means thousands of New Brunswickers will now be able to access chronic disease management at the six community pharmacies leading the way in this pilot.
Pharmacists are highly trained, highly qualified health-care professionals, accessible right in our communities, and we are pleased pharmacists will be able to offer even more of the services they are already trained to provide.
On Sept. 18, the pilot will be expanding to Lawtons Drugs on Brookside Drive in Fredericton, Marie-Claude Cyr Inc. Familiprix in Paquetteville, The Medicine Shoppe on Main Street in Moncton, and Hampton Pharmasave on Main Street in Hampton.
We are confident this pilot will lead to a new way of doing health care in New Brunswick. A similar pilot that launched in Nova Scotia in February has been so successful, they more than doubled the number of pilot sites in May. In the first two months, the clinics provided more than 9,000 services to more than 5,000 patients, diverting many of them from the overcrowded, overburdened health-care system.
The evidence is mounting that an expanded role for pharmacy in the health-care system leads to improved access to primary care for patients and diverts them from emergency departments, walk-in clinics and doctors’ offices.
The New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association is grateful for the strong collaborative relationships we have with the Department of Health and the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists, and through working together on pilots like this, I know we’re in an excellent position to do even more to improve health-care access going forward.
Anne Marie Picone
Interim Executive Director
New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association