Need a vaccination or prescription in Manitoba?
Starting New Year's Day, pharmacists with the necessary training will be able provide you with some of the services under the terms of the new Pharmacy Act.
The news is especially welcome in rural areas, where accessing health care can be more challenging than in larger urban areas, especially when a doctor is unavailable.
Barret Procyshyn, vice-president of the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists, who divides his time between pharmacies in Dauphin and Winnipegosis, said he is excited about the Pharmacy Act and the extra access it will give rural populations.
"The toughest year for me as a pharmacist was when we lost the only doctor we had in Winnipegosis. People were coming to me for help, asking how they could get a refill on their prescriptions and I just couldn't help them," He said. "Now, with the new laws, we will be able to help those people."
'Making these services accessible at pharmacies leads to better public uptake, which leads to better health'
Winnipegosis, a town of about 650 people almost four hours northwest of Winnipeg, didn't have a doctor for almost a year after Dr. Errol Johnson retired in July 2012.
Patients had to drive at least an hour to the next-closest doctor in Dauphin or Swan River, even for something as small as a flu shot. Even then, it wasn't guaranteed they were going to see a doctor because nobody was formally accepting any new patients.
The community has since found a doctor but they still don't have an emergency room, which limits the amount of service available to them.
Manitoba is the sixth province to give pharmacists more responsibilities, following Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The new act expands the role of pharmacists so they can offer better health care to patients, especially for minor medical concerns such as prescriptions for acne and refills.
Pharmacists trained at the University of Manitoba over the past two years have received the training to administer vaccinations. Current pharmacists who wish to do so will be able to access training through the regulatory body, the Pharmaceutical Association (to be known as the College of Pharmacists in the new year).
Already, about 135 pharmacists have been trained to administer vaccinations in Manitoba.
Training for handing out prescriptions will be available for new graduates and practising pharmacists in the new year.
Brenna Shearer, executive director at the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists, said it's hard for small communities in Manitoba to recruit doctors and even harder to keep them.
"Making these services accessible at pharmacies leads to better public uptake, which leads to better health," Shearer said.
Common health demands, such as vaccinations, can also clog emergency rooms and waiting rooms at walk-in clinics.
Alexandra Nahnybida, 23, who works at the Prescription Shop pharmacy on Regent Avenue West, said allowing pharmacists to administer vaccinations can help take some patients off doctors' hands. She said the doctor at the clinic next door is always busy giving people the shingles vaccination.
"The shingles vaccination is becoming very popular and it's temperature-sensitive, I wouldn't even recommend taking it out of the pharmacy," Nahnybida said. "Now we won't have to."
As a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba, Nahnybida has been trained in administering vaccinations as part of the program at the faculty of pharmacy for the last two years.
Sara Watson, a pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic, has also taken the immunization training that will allow her to give vaccinations.
"I'm looking forward to expanding my role as a pharmacist," she said. "However, this is only the first step. Pharmacists still aren't being paid for anything except dispensing so we're going to have get compensation from the patients." This means if people want the new services at their local pharmacy, they're going to have to pay out of pocket.
Shearer said the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists and the province have been discussing a framework for provincial funding, but they don't know when it will be complete.