SEPTEMBER 2017 - As pharmacist/owner of the oldest operating pharmacy in Charlottetown (it opened in 1956), Rob MacLellan has experienced first-hand the trials and tribulations of transitioning to expanded services. In fact, it's on ongoing process.
He took over Sherwood Drug Mart from his father upon graduating from Dalhousie University in 1989. He now employs 32 staff, keeping his busy pharmacy open seven days a week.
"Like most independents, we pride ourselves in really knowing our patients and their individual health situations," says MacLellan. "We offer free delivery, flexible charge accounts and have a large number of blister pack patients."
Even though PEI was among the last provinces to allow pharmacists to administer flu shots, MacLellan has since embraced the service with notable results. "The need was obviously there and it allowed us to increase training for all our five pharmacists who now provide injections," he says. "It has ended up being a really great additional service to offer patients."
Government-funded medication reviews have been another boon to business. With a computer system that flags eligible patients, MacLellan says it's easy to recommend the service and initiate appointments. "Anything you can seamlessly do with your existing work flow and staffing levels is moresustainable," he says. "When you have to hire a pharmacist to come in and do nothing but professional services, that's where you have to watch the math."
While the flu shot has led to other vaccines administered at the pharmacy for a fee, he says the uptake hasn't been nearly as good. He attributes that to the fact Sherwood is attached to a walk-in clinic where patients can get their vaccinations for free.
It's a similar dilemma with minor ailment assessments, for which MacLellan charges a fee because there is no public funding. "Yes, they'll choose us for convenience but patients often struggle with paying $25 a visit here, if they can go next door and pay nothing," he says. "Paying one provider and not the other for a similar service just doesn't make sense."
MacLellan believes that as the population ages and healthcare resources are further stretched, the need for professional services from pharmacy will only grow. "Hopefully government will recognize the importance and benefit of that," he says.
"We're investing in highly trained pharmacists, especially new graduates, with specialized skillsets not being able to perform to their full scope and be reimbursed for it," he adds. "That's frustrating to them and the pharmacy owners employing them."
For an overview of professional services and associated public funding (or lack thereof) in PEI and across Canada, check out the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy's detailed provincial chart.