Chain pharmacies must not chair pharmacy association

The majority of associations, of which there are thousands in Canada, exist to serve their members and their members’ interests.  Members decide an association’s mandate, mission, and focus…or this is how it should be.

Pharmacy has dozens of associations.  Every Canadian province has its own association.  Then there is the National Association, the Pharmacy Foundation Association, the Hospital Pharmacists Association, the Pharmacy Technicians’ Association, and the Chain Drug Association etc.  All this is indicative of an institution/industry/profession that is highly fragmented.  But the really big split occurs between the commercial/business side and the professional/clinical side of the profession. The interests of these two large sub groups are often at odds.

The Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores (CACDS) and its little brother the Ontario Association of Chain Drug Stores (OACDS) are powerful associations which represent the business interests of their members, chain drug stores.  Their name says it all.  Originally a small tight group, the CACDS appears to have broadened membership to include any pharmacy business with more than one location.

Chain Drug Stores (CDS) employ about 80 to 85% of all practising pharmacists in Ontario, and likely Canada.  CDS, (meaning grocery stores, box stores, and so called ‘franchised stores’),  are accountable to their shareholders first…not pharmacists, not regulatory bodies, not patients (who they prefer to refer to  as ‘customers’ or ‘guests’ or ‘consumers’.

CDS today control the profession of pharmacy, and there is growing evidence that this is not in the best interest of pharmacy patients, nor governments/payors.  For sure this is very much not in the interest of the profession of pharmacy.

So why does the OACDS have a seat on the board of directors of the Ontario Pharmacists Association?

The OPA declares itself to represent all pharmacists including hospital, students, chains, independents and now technicians, even though many of these entities already have their own associations.  No wonder governments are sometimes confused.  How many associations do we need?   Nevertheless, the OACDS is an ‘association’, not a pharmacist.  Why does an ‘association’ have an OPA board seat?

One might assume that the reason the OACDS is on the OPA Board is to protect the interest of its members.  One might further assume that a key role of the OACDS is to convey OPA activities/decisions/directions back to the OACDS membership.

With such a wide representation by varied and often conflicting interests, it becomes difficult to understand how many critical agenda items of vital interest to practising pharmacists such as:  3 minute Medschecks, professional services quotas, compensation issues, working conditions, forced flu shots, performance metrics etc, could ever be discussed at an OPA board meeting, let alone addressed. So of course, these subjects are largely ignored.

It is encouraging to see that the OPA is now addressing the critical issue of Pharmacist Billing Numbers ((PBNs) by forming a task force to do some ground work on this important issue.  If/when achieved, PBNs will represent a major shift in power dynamics from the non pharmacist corporate pharmacy owners to practising pharmacists.

This begs the question: How will this issue be addressed by the OPA Board when it is clear that different board members will have diametrically opposing views on this issue?  Clearly those with the power want to keep it, and those without the power want to get it. If the OACDS represents those who have this power, it will not likely be in favour of anything that sees that power slip away to practising pharmacists.  PBNs would be a huge headache for Big Pharmacy owners

If any of this makes sense, it begs a further larger question:  How, if the OACDS takes on the position of Chair of the OPA for 2014/2015 (as it might), how could the OACDS champion and advocate for PBNs?  How can the OACDS do this knowing that PBNs are not in the interest of the OACDS members?  … especially knowing that whoever champions this issue will be facing formidable challenges politically and organization wise?   This challenge will require passion, conviction, and an iron will.  How can the OACDS possibly lead and accomplish this very difficult task when it is clearly not in its interest?

I submit that the OACDS as OPA chair cannot even attempt this task.

I submit that the OACDS should never chair the OPA, not in 2014/2015, not ever.

I further submit that the OACDS should not even sit as a permanent board member of the OPA

If you agree, or disagree, with any of this, please make your wishes known to the OPA.  If you are a member, then tell your district representative and the OPA CEO.

If you are not an OPA member, send an email to the CEO anyway and express your opinion on this important matter.  Do it today and certainly before the OPA Annual Convention in June.

I welcome your comments on this important subject



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