‘The present is the point of power’

The response to my last blog, ‘What’s a pharmacist? What’s a pharmacy?’ has been overwhelming. Many thanks to all who have written inIn response, I would like to offer some comments:

I actually have put more than words into the effort to wrest back control of the profession of pharmacy from vested interests back into pharmacists’ hands.

In the spring of 201I, I led a delegation of pharmacists, and met several times with senior Ontario Ministry of Health officials on this subject.

The purpose of these meetings was to emphasize the difference between ‘pharmacists’ and ‘pharmacies’, and to advocate for direct billing numbers for pharmacists. The difference between actual practicing pharmacists, and those corporate entities which owned pharmacies actually took some effort to clarify with these senior officials

We received a good hearing but they were puzzled why we had not approached the subject through the OPA, which they had considerable respect for. The pharmacy/pharmacist distinction we were advocating for had not been presented before, & we were encouraged to “go out there and get the numbers” to support our position.

After some soul searching, I turned my attention towards trying to get the OPA to take on the mantle, and to lead the charge to advocate for the interests of individual practising community pharmacists. To my thinking, the OPA already had the name Ontario PHARMACISTS Association and it already had established credentials with the MOHLTC.

To date, these efforts have not received much traction, as vested interests appear too firmly entrenched within, not only Ontario, but all Pharmacy Associations across Canada.

A quick glance at many Associations’ board structures reveals dominance by individual pharmacy owners (mostly smaller/rural centres) & a seat representative by the chains (CACDS). In Ontario, if past history is followed, the CACDS, which holds the vice chair position presently, will chair the OPA in 2014.

In spite of this, I still believe that existing Pharmacy Associations remain the best avenue to improve the present unfortunate situation which the majority of community pharmacists, employed by non pharmacist corporations, find themselves in today across Canada.

These Associations have existing credibility and existing infrastructure; however, in order to move them to a new mandate, they will first need a significant overhaul.

Failing an overhaul, only newly formed and newly mandated advocacy groups can succeed in creating the necessary turnaround. This would be unfortunate and divisive, as well as costly & difficult to do…but certainly not impossible, and very much inevitable in the end.

In the meantime here are some concrete steps which can be taken today, beyond just griping & talking:

  1. Email your present district Provincial Association rep and make your demands for advocacy for practising community pharmacists known… and Cc the CEO, the Chairman, Past Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Association. Email the rep even if you are not a member of the Association. These Associations constantly attest to “representing all pharmacists”, even though actual membership is around 50% of licensed pharmacists. So write in regardless, as a practising pharmacist in your province.
  2. Write a letter/email to your provincial College of Pharmacy and indicate where/how/when you have been put in a position of compromise with regards to patient safety and interest as a result of your employment arrangement…i.e. tell them about the MedsChecks & flu shot quotas being imposed upon you, as well as the unsustainable/unsafe workloads. Demand that the College act on its regulatory responsibilities. They have the power; they are just not exercising it. Drown them with letters & emails.

3, Resolve to take control of your day to day practice.

…Refuse to do anything that you do not believe is in your patient’s interest.

…Ignore quotas that serve retailing interests and revenue targets, and which compromise quality.

…Shun products you know are useless or even harmful, and take the time to instruct patients to avoid these products; it’s your professional duty.

…Be the pharmacist you want to be and trained so hard to become…especially you new young fresh graduates.  Hold onto your ideals. It’s in your hands. The future of pharmacy depends on you.

Everyone must work together. Big movements begin with thousands of small steps which eventually become a rumble. Change your attitude and grab control of your pharmacy practice, regardless of where you are employed. You have the power. Seize it.

Look at what one man, Nelson Mandela, achieved, and he did it peacefully.

More to come

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