Pharmacies helping to fill health-care gap in Interior Health region | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Pharmacies helping to fill health-care gap in Interior Health region

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

Pharmacists in the Interior Health region are diagnosing and prescribing treatment for minor illnesses to lessen the burden on the health-care system and help those without family doctors.

In 2022, the provincial government allowed pharmacists to do more than just fill prescriptions and in 2023 pharmacists were allowed to start diagnosing and treating 21 common minor illnesses. 

Bikram Chahal, pharmacy manager at Asher Pharmacy in Kelowna, said this change has been beneficial for everyone involved and he hopes pharmacists will be able to do more for patients in the future. 

“We just opened (the clinic) in the fall but still we’re getting about four people a day coming in for minor illnesses,” Chahal said.

Chahal said there are not nearly enough family doctors in BC, and allowing pharmacists to diagnose and treat illnesses is lessening the burden on the healthcare system, filling the gap in healthcare for those without a family doctor, and saving patients time.

"They don’t have family doctors or they’re still waiting trying to get one. That’s why they come to us, trying to find any alternatives for treatment for their medical conditions,” Chahal said.

READ MORE: Nurses rally at Merritt's hospital demanding better security and more staff

There are 54,772 Interior Health residents on the waitlist for a family doctor as of December 2023. 

For people who don’t have a family doctor, going to a pharmacy for a quick and simple diagnosis is much faster than waiting in an emergency room.

“I find it’s helpful for people. First of all it lessens the burden on the medical system because we don’t have enough doctors right now. People come to us and get free advice and if our professional judgement allows us to prescribe something then we prescribe it,” Chahal said. “They save time, in an emergency room it takes four or five hours. They can come to us any time and get things done right away.”

At the moment pharmacists are restricted to diagnosing and treating 21 illnesses including acne, allergies and hay fever, canker sores, cold sores, fungal infections, headaches, heartburn, hemorrhoids, hives and itching from bug bites, impetigo, menstrual pain, nicotine dependence, pink eye, pinworms or threadworms, shingles, skin rash, sprains and strains, thrush, upset stomach, urinary tract infections and yeast infections.

READ MORE: Almost half of those in Interior Health waiting for a family doctor are in Kamloops

Chahal thinks it would be helpful if pharmacists could do more, but it's up to the provincial government and the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia to decide. 

“Hopefully our college would allow us to prescribe for more conditions,” he said. “I wish we could prescribe more stuff to make it easier on people but it’s still really helpful.”

Pharmacies gain business from treating people as well.

“It’s beneficial, when we see a patient we bill the government and they pay us not much but they pay us a bit. Then if we write a prescription we gain another customer so again it’s boosting our business,” he said.

Go here to find out more about pharmacy services in BC.

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