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Embracing Change: Birtle Pharmacy

Embracing Change: Birtle Pharmacy | Profile image of Pharmacy Co-Owner Alison Desjardins - The Canadian Foundation For Pharmacy

Embracing Change: Birtle Pharmacy

SEPTEMBER 2019—Sometimes the path to positive change can begin by simply moving to a larger space. Alison Desjardins and her husband Steve became co-owners of Birtle Pharmacy in Birtle, Manitoba in 2000, and sole owners in 2006. But in 2014, they opened up a brand new, more spacious pharmacy and Desjardins says that decision has made all the difference.

“My husband wanted to expand the front shop area and I was keen to build clinic rooms and have a more spacious dispensary,” she says. “The previous location had limitations because of the lack of space.”

The new pharmacy has two new clinic rooms which enabled the ability to offer injections, private consultations and opioid replacement therapy “People are really happy to be able to come get injections here, rather than having to make an appointment at the clinic and wait,” says Desjardins. “We still encourage our clients to make appointments here but it’s a lot easier to get in.” 

One of the aspects that sets Birtle apart is that they have more pharmacists than technicians or assistants. “We can have a pharmacist interacting with people when they drop off prescriptions as well as when they pick them up. It’s a trending concept called ‘Pharmacist at Intake’ and it’s working really well for us,” said Desjardins. 

The new building and unique setup isn’t the only way that Desjardins and her team are embracing change. They recently invested in a program which allows them to access e-charts from hospitals and doctors. Not only can they keep an eye on vaccination records but it also allows the pharmacists to check clients’ lab results such as renal function, to ensure their doses are appropriate. Desjardins is also a keen proponent of medication synchronization, and her pharmacy team has developed an in-house system where they can streamline their prescription pickup service. With this system, customers can pick up all of their monthly medication at the same time, instead of having to come back multiple times in the same month.   

That’s not to say billing for pharmacy services doesn’t have its challenges in a province where most pharmacy services aren’t funded by government. Desjardins says many people still choose to wait to see their doctors so they can avoid pharmacy service fees. The recently elected Manitoba government made a campaign promise to pay pharmacists to prescribe treatment for urinary tract infections (UTI) which is something that Desjardins is advocating for. 

“One of the biggest challenges with billing for services is that people can go somewhere else and get those same services for free,” says Desjardins. “It doesn’t make any sense. Pharmacists should be paid for providing injections, and assessing people for some of these minor conditions.”

As she approaches her 20th anniversary with Birtle Pharmacy, Desjardins continues to be passionate about her work and the patients she impacts. “I enjoy the people we work with, I enjoy the people we serve and the community we live in,” she says. “Being a pharmacist means having continual opportunities to learn new things. When I start my day, I never know who is going to call me requesting a new service, or come in the door needing help with a new diagnosis. Every day is different, and all in all it’s a very rewarding position to be in.”

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