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Pilot program allows pharmacists to apply ‘full range of training,’ says health minister

Primary care clinics at 12 pharmacies funded to treat some illnesses

4 min read
A man with a lab coat speaks to reporters in front of a woman
caption Alvin Thompkins is a pharmacist in Dartmouth. His Wyse road pharmacy opened its primary care clinic on Feb. 1.
David Shuman

New primary care clinics opened Wednesday in 11 pharmacies across the province. 

Health Minister Michelle Thompson announced a pilot program on Tuesday that provides funding for pharmacists to create specific appointments where they can test, diagnose and treat a variety of ailments. Eleven pharmacies open dedicated clinics Wednesday, while another will open later this month.

“Starting with 12 community pharmacies, we’re building a testing system where pharmacists can apply their full range of training, knowledge and skills,” said Thompson.

According to the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities, Nova Scotia had 1,405 licensed pharmacists as of January 2022. Currently, there are about 714 people for every pharmacist in the province. 

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Pharmacists in these clinics are now able to treat minor ailments such as fungal infections, menstrual cramps and allergies, as well as provide medication, management and support for chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease.

More information can be found on the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia website.

The province will give $7,000 per month to each pharmacy to help implement this program, resulting in 40 hours per week of appointment time.

Earlier in January, the province announced a range of supports for health care, including patient advocates in emergency rooms and tuition rebates for paramedics.

No new scope of practice

A man in a blue suit speaks to reporters.
caption Former Nova Scotia NDP leader Gary Burrill supports primary care clinics, saying he is glad money will not change hands from patient to pharmacist.

Officials confirmed at the announcement that pharmacists will not have to undergo new training, and in fact have had training for these services for decades. Starting in 2020, pharmacists in the province have been able to assess and prescribe birth control and medication for urinary tract infections and shingles.

“When we talk about this scope of practice, pharmacists have been trained to work this way for the better part of 20-25 years, and they’ve been waiting desperately – across this country and elsewhere – to be able to fully utilize their skills,” said Allison Bodnar, CEO of Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.

Dartmouth pharmacist Alvin Thompkins runs a pharmacy that opened a clinic on Wednesday. The event announcing the pilot program was at his pharmacy.

He said he’s been dreaming about this day since graduating from pharmacy school 22 years ago. “I sort of had a vision for a clinic like this, where I could work as a pharmacist and really provide care to my patients to the full scope of my knowledge and my training.”

Pharmacists have been able to provide this care in the past, but this is the first time the province has funded these services.

NDP MLA Gary Burrill spoke to journalists after the announcement. He said although pharmacists have been able to provide care for decades, money should not be passing hands from patient to pharmacist.

“That was really the difficulty because that means there was a financial barrier to accessing the care,” he said.

Patients with a family doctor who see a pharmacist for minor treatments can ask for records to be sent to their doctor. If a patient is placed with a family doctor after an appointment, they can request prior records be sent to their new care provider.

“Pharmacy locations with appointments available beginning Wednesday,” according to a news release from the province:

  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 118 Wyse Rd., Dartmouth
  • Guardian 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
  • Wilsons 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
  • City Drug Store, 369 Main St., Yarmouth

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

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About the author

David Shuman

David Shuman is a reporter from Musquodoboit Harbour, NS. He works as the editor-in-chief of the Dalhousie Gazette, Dalhousie's independent campus...

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