HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is committing more than $9 million over five years to cover the cost of several services offered by the province's 1,300 pharmacists.
Beginning Jan. 1, pharmacists will be funded by the province to assess and prescribe medications for birth control, urinary tract infections and shingles.
"These are three areas in particular where people who don't have a family physician may be going to the emergency department to receive diagnosis and treatment," Health Minister Randy Delorey said Monday.
Delorey said the funding would now give people access to a more convenient option for non-medical emergencies.
Pharmacists "are health-care providers who have the scope of practice, they have the training and the expertise to provide these services," he said.
The province will join Saskatchewan in publicly funding such services.
Starting on April 1, pharmacists will be funded to renew prescriptions for an additional 180 days for things like asthma inhalers and blood pressure medications.
Currently patients are required to pay a fee when pharmacists provide these services, but once the agreement takes effect the government will pick up the tab.
Curtis Chafe, chair of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, welcomed the government's move.
"Outside of government funding flu shots in pharmacies, this is the first time that they are funding services for all Nova Scotians — not just Pharmacare members," said Chafe, referring to the provincial program that helps cover the cost of prescription drugs.
Chafe, who also works as a pharmacist in Halifax, said although pharmacists have only been allowed to provide the increased services since Dec. 1, he expects there will be more interest from patients.
He noted neighbouring New Brunswick still requires patients to pay pharmacists to assess and treat minor ailments — though that province has looked into public funding.
"When they did the background research, one in five visits to an emergency room was for a urinary tract infection," Chafe said. "So I can imagine that walk-in clinics, doctor's offices and emergency rooms will see that burden moved around a little bit."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2019.
The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. In a previous version, the Health Department said pharmacists would be able to renew prescriptions for 60 days.