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B.C. Premier David Eby speaks during a health care funding announcement, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, June 9. Eby says British Columbia is set to become the first in Canada to offer a provincewide online booking system to see pharmacists for treating minor ailments.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

In an attempt to ease some of the pressure on British Columbia’s health care system, Premier David Eby says the province will become the first in Canada to offer online booking for residents to visit pharmacists for treatment of minor ailments.

The website will go live Thursday, allowing residents to book appointments with one of 600 pharmacists who have agreed to use a new system, similar to what is used for booking COVID-19 or flu vaccines.

“It’s about getting the health care that you need in your community when you need it. It’s about taking pressure off our entire health care system,” Mr. Eby said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“I can’t wait to see how this new system works out and rolls out in communities across the province while we continue to work to strengthen the health care system long term.”

The province expanded the scope of pharmacists earlier this month, allowing them to treat 21 minor ailments like acne, shingles or urinary tract infections, as well as prescribe contraceptives.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said more than 25,000 people have seen a pharmacist for treatment since the changes were made.

He said people will be able to search for appointment times at nearby pharmacies based on their needs and will have the option to call or walk in for treatment.

The College of Pharmacists of BC has said 75 per cent of eligible community pharmacists have completed the training required to be able to diagnose and prescribe.

Penny Lehoux, a London Drugs pharmacist who spoke at the announcement, said pharmacists are well positioned to prescribe for minor ailments because members of the community already go to them for over-the-counter medication and other advice.

She said some of the most common ailments they have seen in the first month of being able to offer treatment include urinary tract infections, seasonal allergies, conjunctivitis, cold sores and skin rashes.

“We’re also seeing a lot of demand for contraception right now, especially since many types of birth control are now free for B.C. residents,” she said.

In April, the province began covering more than 60 commonly used birth-control methods, including oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices.

Chris Chiew, president of the B.C. Pharmacy Association, said the new booking system means it will be easier for patients to find care rather than going to an emergency department.

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