Island pharmacists to participate in one stop shop for common ailments

Pharmacists can now prescribe medications for 13 common ailments.

MANITOULIN—At least a couple of pharmacies on Manitoulin Island will be participating in providing a one stop shop for 13 common ailments with pharmacists now able to prescribe remedies, sanctioned by the province. Pharmacists feel this will not only make it more convenient for people to connect to care closer to home, but will, in turn benefit hospital emergency departments.

“We’re going to be participating,” stated Mike Malak, of Little Current Guardian Pharmacy in Little Current. “It is a great idea and one that is overdue,” he said, noting this same initiative is in place in British Columbia and several other provinces in Canada. 

“It will help take the load off (hospital) emergency departments,” said Mr. Malak. “They will no longer get walk-in patients asking for the services of a doctor for common ailments, such as needing ear drops.”

“It will be very good for our customers,” said Kidane Gebrekristose of Central Pharmacy in Gore Bay. “And the new system will not be that much different than what we provide now. I think it is a good idea.”

As of January 1, Ontarians will be able to stop in at pharmacies across the province to receive prescriptions for 13 common ailments, including rashes, pink eye, insect bites and urinary tract infections with just their health card. This service makes it more convenient to access care by removing a doctor’s office visit or a trip to the emergency department of a local hospital and will come at no extra cost to Ontarians.

Pharmacies will receive a reimbursement through OHIP for consultation/writing a prescription depending on the condition, for in-store consultation of $19 and $15 for a virtual (including telephone) consultation. However, there is a limited number per patient that pharmacies will be reimbursed by OHIP every year, province-wide.

“Stopping by your local pharmacy for quick and easy access to treatment for some of your most common ailments increases your access to the care you need closer to home,” said Sylvia Jones, deputy premier and minister of health in making the announcement December 28. “Expanding the ability of pharmacists to provide care is one more way we’re putting people at the centre of our health care system, making it easier, faster and more convenient to access health care in their community.”

Pharmacists will be able to offer prescriptions for: hay fever (allergic rhinitis), oral thrush (candida stomatitis), pink eye (conjunctivitis—bacterial, allergic and viral), dermatitis (atopic, eczema, allergic and contact), menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea),  acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hemorrhoids, cold sores (herpes labialis), impetigo, insect bites and hives, tick bites (post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent Lyme disease), sprains and strains (musculoskeletal)  and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Allowing pharmacists to prescribe for these common ailments will make it more convenient for Ontarians to receive the care they need, while offering patients more convenient choices for how they access and receive health care. With a large, province-wide footprint, pharmacist prescribing will help to increase access to care in rural parts of Ontario.

In addition to providing more convenience, pharmacy prescribing will also help free-up doctor’s bandwidth to provide care for more complex needs, helping to reduce wait times for these services.

Dr. Steve Cooper, chief of staff of the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) said, “there are some clinicians who are nervous about this initiative, in terms of acute care medicine. But this is less of an issue here (Manitoulin Island) than larger areas where they rely on a lot of walk-in clinics and emergency for these cases. We can deal with this issue due to the good relationship we (local physicians) have with our pharmacists on the Island; they know they can reach out to us at any time on any issue or concern. There is more of a team atmosphere on the Island than in other areas.” 

“The legislation is good because it provides another access for patients to get what they need without having to see doctors through emergency departments,” said Dr. Cooper. He pointed out the 13 common ailments that patients can now receive prescriptions for in the pharmacy were chosen by the ministry very carefully to further make sure in any case of a missed diagnosis it will not cause harm to a patient. “There is a very low risk,” he said. 

“In some cases, I’m not sure how pharmacists are going to manage this because they are already very busy,” said Dr. Cooper. “I expect pharmacists have the choice to take on these added services, or decline.” 

Justin Bates, chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists Association said, “empowering pharmacists to use their expertise to assess and treat minor ailments helps patients get the care they need sooner and closer to home, but the benefits go much further. It reduces demand on hospitals, emergency departments, walk-in clinics and family physicians. It also frees up time for our healthcare partners, allowing doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers to focus on more complex care issues.”

Ontarians can now also visit local pharmacies for Paxlovid prescriptions. Visit ontario.ca/antivirals for more information on eligibility and to find local pharmacies that are dispensing Paxlovid.