N.S. government to pay pharmacists to prescribe common medications

The Nova Scotia government will soon pick up the fee for when Nova Scotians get a prescription from a pharmacist for birth control pills or medication to treat shingles or urinary tract infections.Health Minister Randy Delorey announced the policy change Monday morning at a Bedford pharmacy, which will take effect Jan. 1. At present, people must pay a fee to pharmacists for providing the service.Delorey said the province is spending $9.4 million over the next five years on the initiative.Pharmacists will be paid $12 to $20 per assessment, compared to the $38.64 family doctors get for a regular office visit or $47.81 for a geriatric office visit.Although there are savings to the health budget, Delorey said that was not the reason for the change."This is about increasing access, not about savings," he said. "It's an increased investment in pharmacy services."This is about ensuring that Nova Scotians that may be having challenges getting access to having prescriptions renewed for common treatments like urinary tract infections and birth control are able to do it."The agreement between the province and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia allows for another change starting April 1. Next spring, pharmacists will be able to renew prescriptions for an additional 180 days for items such as asthma inhalers and blood pressure medication.There are roughly 1,300 pharmacists in Nova Scotia and 300 pharmacies.The province estimates the policy change will result in pharmacists providing 250,000 services annually.Dr. Curtis Chafe, the chair of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, said all pharmacists are trained to assess patients and read lab results, even though some may choose not to use these new powers."There's gonna be some pharmacists that are gonna deny contraceptive counselling because they don't feel comfortable with it," said Chafe. "But they're gonna be able to at least refer some place to that person so that they can get looked after."A push for more powers for pharmacistsHe said he'd like to see pharmacists roles expand further to what is known in Alberta as additional prescribing authorization."Right now, they have the highest scope in Canada," said Chafe. "They essentially have the scope of a nurse practitioner."They can initiate therapy, they can follow, they can monitor, they can order lab tests, they can do the whole gamut."MORE TOP STORIES

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