One of the challenges encountered in everyday life is the different interpretations people put on what they read or hear.
CHN readers recently witnessed a great deal of reaction to OPA Chair Carlo Berardi’s commentary in the Canadian Healthcare Network , wherein Carlo takes a strong position re the need for all pharmacists to pull together in the same direction in the face of the many challenges facing the profession of pharmacy today.
Carlo makes the point that anyone who pits one member against another is “divisive”, and is therefore misguided and counterproductive to the common cause. Carlo has made this point in the past as well. I could not agree with him more. I have already submitted my formal response to Carlo’s piece.
Although Carlo has offered no response to the dozens of pharmacists who wrote into his commentary, I believe he is sincere in his strong support of the OPA and the direction it is currently taking, and he believes that current OPA members share common cause.
I have given this considerable thought and I have come to the conclusion that Carlo, the OPA, and many other provincial pharmacy associations are confusing members with stakeholders. There is a very big difference between these two entities.
If any provincial pharmacy association sets itself up as representing all pharmacy stakeholders then the list becomes extensive.
Here is a potential list of pharmacy stakeholders:
- Independent pharmacists who own pharmacies as business owners,
- Publically owned billion dollar chain stores,
- US box stores
- Grocery stores
- Banner operations
- Practising community pharmacists, largely employees of non pharmacist owners
- So described, “Associate” owner/operator pharmacists
- The public/patients pharmacists serve
- The ethical pharmaceutical drug industry
- The generic drug industry
- The regulatory bodies
All of the preceding can be described as legitimate stakeholders in pharmacy with stake holdings as a business, as a profession, as a distribution conduit, as a department within a multidepartment store, as an educational institution, etc.
But being a stakeholder does not necessarily entitle every entity membership in a particular organization.
Witness how chain drug stores have formed their own separate association, the CACDS which now appears to include (in addition to the big players), any pharmacy business operation with more than one location. These entities have common and unique interests as retailers and businesses. Individual practising pharmacists are not invited to join.
Then there was an attempt, a few years ago, by independent pharmacy owners (the IPO) to form their own separate association as small business owners. This group attained some attention and political clout during the heat of the battle surrounding Drug Reform. Membership was restricted to drugstore owners. Unfortunately, it appears that the IPO has now been reduced to a buying group and is not politically active as far as I know.
Hospital pharmacists have very specific interests as they are predominantly public servants/hospital employees. These pharmacists very much operate outside the turbulence of present community pharmacy. They have their own association which deals directly with governments and hospital management.
This reality speaks to the crux of the challenge facing the OPA specifically, and other provincial pharmacy associations as well. When OPA Chair Carlo Berardi speaks of being inclusive while describing others as being divisive, he is confusing stakeholders with members.
I submit that all stakeholders may be relevant, but not all stakeholders should be members if their specific interests are not aligned.
The Ontario PHARMACISTS Association should represent the particular interests of practising community pharmacists, some of whom work as employees for small businesses owned by pharmacists, but the majority of whom work for large non pharmacist owned mega businesses.
These mega retail businesses have very predictable ways of behaving, especially in the highly competitive retail marketplace of today and increasingly as well in the internet.
The fact remains that some of this behavior is not in the interest of the profession of pharmacy, or of practising pharmacists, or of patients. We speak here of quotas, low value MedsChecks, unacceptable working conditions, and severely reduced compensation. In the meantime, regulatory bodies appear to remain on the sidelines.
Is it such a radical notion that practising community pharmacists should have their own association which represents their specific interests and advocates for their specific issues?
Is it such a radical notion for the OPA and others, to publish a set of standards which forbid such practices as quotas for billable services, and set some clinical guidelines/protocols for doing MedsChecks and other billable services which government healthcare dollars pay for?
Is this not the type of activity that practising pharmacists would naturally expect from an institution which calls itself The Ontario PHARMACISTS Association…with or without an apostrophe?
How could such notions be considered divisive?
When association membership fees for individual pharmacists are paid for by non pharmacist employers, is there a question as to who controls the agenda?
These are important questions all pharmacists should be asking themselves at this time, when these provincial associations are asking for membership initiation or renewal.