Ontario pharmacists could soon have new powers

Forget about doctor's visits. Your pharmacist could soon be your first and only point of contact, for minor ailments, if a proposed plan by the Ford Government goes into effect. That's according to a report by Queens Park bureau chief Colin D'Mello, with our media partner CTV News Toronto.

It could mean that if you're dealing with things like nausea, a sore throat, pink eye or other minor ailments, you could soon be able to go straight to your pharmacist instead. 

As things stand now, people are forced to go see their family doctor, go to a walk-in clinic, or even to the emergency room for minor illnesses, before getting their prescriptions.

Allan Malek with the Ontario Pharmacists Association agrees with the proposed changes.

"They come back four, five, eight hours later - depending on where they've gone - and they come in, holding that prescription for the very product I would have given them, had I had the opportunity to prescribe it."

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The Ford Government's budget, unveiled last week, gives a number of other healthcare providers new powers.

For example, optometrists, oral surgeons and nurse practitioners would be able to order MRI's and CT scans, while pharmacists would be permitted to diagnose a number of minor ailments.

At this point, most health care providers seem to be in support of the move.  

The Ontario Medical Association says it wants to see strict regulations to ensure the work is done in collaboration with doctors. They also want to make sure that health information is shared and that patient
safety is not put at risk. Malek says that won't be an issue.

"I don't believe there's going to be a tremendous risk. We're looking at other jurisdictions and we're seeing no great risk."

Meantime, Health Minister Christine Elliot says they hope to soon allow pharmacists the power to assess, diagnose and even prescribe certain medications.

"So that means people will be able to go in on weekends, after hours, after their doctor's offices have closed."

The Health Minister says there would be a fee associated with going to the pharmacist, but that would be covered by OHIP.

New Brunswick pharmacists have had a similar arrangement in place for years now.

With files from Heather Seaman