A new $1-million pilot project in Nova Scotia will expand the scope of practice for pharmacists as the province tries to free up space in its struggling emergency departments.
Health Minister Michelle Thompson says the new program will be piloted in 12 pharmacies across the province, with more locations expected in the spring.
With appointments beginning Wednesday, pharmacists in these pilot clinics will have dedicated time to treat patients for common illnesses, and for the first time will test, diagnose and treat strep throat.
They will also be able to prescribe and manage medications for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
As well, pharmacies will receive more money for services they already provide, including care for 31 ailments such as minor joint and muscle pains, eczema, cold sores and heartburn.
Care already available at no cost in pharmacies includes the assessment and treatment for uncomplicated urinary tract infections and shingles, contraception, and Lyme disease prevention and prescription renewals.
“We need to change how we deliver health care to help Nova Scotians get the care they need faster,” Thompson said in a news release. “In doing this, we will help people stay well, and free up emergency departments for emergencies.”
Beverley Zwicker, CEO and registrar of the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists, said that using pharmacists in primary care will make better use of the existing health-care workforce.
“This is an important shift in health-care delivery as we work towards solutions for our current crisis and supporting Nova Scotians in getting the right care, from the right person, at the right time,” Zwicker said.
Under the program, assessment and treatment records will be held by the pharmacy or provided to the patient unless they have a family physician or nurse practitioner.
The first dozen clinics will operate at pharmacies in Yarmouth, Shelburne, Bridgewater, Berwick, Greenwood, Dartmouth, Bedford, Halifax, Truro, New Glasgow, Sydney and North Sydney.