MAY 2023 – Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy President Justin Bates has been an avid pharmacy advocate for the last 18 years, including 13 years at the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada—three of which as CEO and most recently as head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. He shares his insights on Ontario’s unique pharmacy challenges, as well as the vital role for CFP in continuing to propel the profession forward.
Tell about the expertise you bring to CFP? I began my career in advertising/marketing before transitioning into the health insurance industry and then pharmacy advocacy. Investments payers make into frontline health care is something that was always close to my heart. Through my various roles, I’ve come to understand the dynamics and diversity within the pharmacy sector—from wholesale and supply chain dynamics to the delivery of care in pharmacy by pharmacy professionals. When it comes to fundraising, I also have a good understanding of how to create those emotional connections that motivate people to donate.
What makes the Ontario pharmacy sector unique? It’s the diversity of the market, in terms of the independent and corporate models—55% of the sector is still made up of independents. Over the pandemic, we’ve been able to untap and better leverage the experience and expertise pharmacists have in the community. But we have much to do in terms of playing catchup with some of the other provinces when it comes to funding and scope of practice. Our main priority is the financial sustainability of the pharmacy sector.
Certainly, minor ailment prescribing was a win for Ontario pharmacists this year. Yes, we were happy to see that come across the finish line in January and five months in, we’ve seen well over 182,000prescriptions based on over 151,000 patientassessments for minor ailments and the majority of pharmacies participating in providing these services. But there are so many more medications that pharmacists could provide to give patients better access to health care—and we’re still nowhere close to the prescribing authority of provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan. There really shouldn’t be a difference in practice scope from province to province, especially with the mobility of the profession these days.
In light of this, what is the role of CFP going forward? We needto continue to build awareness about the importance of pharmacy research and our work in supporting researchers across Canada. That means getting a stronger foothold outside of Ontario and making connections in all the provinces, while also engaging frontline healthcare professionals who may still not know what the Foundation does. Right now, a lot of our support comes from industry, but we should also be building those connections within the profession itself.
Also, having research is great but if it’s not utilized and effectively communicated to key stakeholders it’s of no value. Being able to communicate what we’re doing and allowing professional organizations like OPA to incorporate these research results into their advocacy and government relations strategies is really important to show value for money to government.
At CFP we also look at the key issues facing the industry and create a forum for these discussions. Hopefully this will lead to solutions as we look to support all the different stakeholders in pharmacy to do better.