MAY 2016 – As the keynote speaker at the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s Innovation Gala in April, Jeff Yurek, community pharmacist and Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Elgin-Middlesex-London, urged pharmacists to get more politically involved—or risk being overlooked in a rapidly changing healthcare landscape. “The future is so bright for the profession, but you have to ensure you are part of it,” he said.
As Health Critic for the Progressive Conservative party, Yurek is well positioned to see the many opportunities for pharmacists. For example, proposed changes to Local Health Integration Networks and Community Care Access Centres in Ontario represent “the largest restructuring in 50 years. This is something that pharmacists don’t want to miss. Your skills and training are needed.”
The distribution of medical marijuana is another good example of the need for pharmacists to be at the table. “The fact that government first considered LCBO [Liquor Control Board of Ontario] tells us that pharmacy needs to do a better job at being heard,” noted Yurek.
Political activism does not need to take a lot of time or effort. Yurek urged individual pharmacists to reach out to their MPP and ask for just 10 minutes on the phone or face-to-face to present a single idea that can close gaps in health care and get better value from current spending. Then keep in touch. “It may take time, but eventually your suggestions take seed.”
Reducing drug wastage by improving adherence can save money while improving health outcomes is another area where action is overdue. “Pharmacists can show government how they can do something better and not cost the government more,” said Yurek, adding that “the biggest challenge for pharmacists is pharmacists. You are too quiet.”