Ontario pharmacies will officially be able to assess and prescribe medication for 13 common ailments as of Jan. 1.
The service is intended to make access to care more convenient by eliminating a doctor's visit, according to a release from the Ontario Ministry of Health. And it's free for patients with a health card, the ministry says.
"Empowering pharmacists to use their expertise to assess and treat minor ailments helps patients get the care they need sooner and closer to home," Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, said in the release.
The move comes as Ontario hospitals and clinics have been hit hard with a surge in viral illnesses.
The government first announced in July that it intended to give pharmacists more prescribing power in the hopes of reducing the load on primary care physicians and emergency rooms. While pharmacists said at the time they were glad to see the changes, they also said the changes should have been made sooner and don't go far enough.
"Ontario is taking a very cautious approach with only 13 conditions," Bates previously told CBC News. "We need to expand it."
Here are the conditions you can skip the doctor for:
Candidal stomatitis (oral thrush).
Conjunctivitis (bacterial, allergic and viral).
Dermatitis (atopic, eczema, allergic and contact).
Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Herpes labialis (cold sores).
Insect bites and urticaria (hives).
Tick bites, post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent Lyme disease.
Musculoskeletal sprains and strains.
Urinary tract infections.
Nardine Nakhla, a Toronto-area pharmacist, served on the advisory group that helped develop the regulatory changes necessary for the move. She says that it will be up to each location to decide how pharmacists will deliver the service, but all are equipped and qualified to do so.
Nakhla also says the funding of the service by the provincial government is good news, as it doesn't set up a "two-tiered system."
"Public funding does make a big difference and will help ensure that individuals who need access to this will get access," Nakhla told CBC News.
According to Nakhla, all 10 provinces will be able to provide this service in 2023.
Alberta was the first province to allow pharmacists to prescribe medications back in 2007. Ontario is second last before British Columbia.