The new government funding rules, with respect to pharmacies in Alberta, haven’t just affected the pharmacists, but it has been a loss for the patients as well.
Patient can go to prescribing pharmacy and easily get prescription from them. Pharmacy were paid $25 from government for prescription service. With recent changes they won’t receive any money from government for providing prescriptions. Which may discourage busy pharmacies not to provide prescription service as they are not getting paid for their time and liabilities they take by providing prescription. This will result in increased flow at walk-in clinic and emergency centers. As a result, patient will have to wait more and government will end up paying more to doctors for their service. If patient prefer to go to specific clinic, instead of walk-in, they might find it difficult to book an appointment. This is a massive hit to patient care.
With patient’s visit to clinic if doctor books follow up visit for the patient, that results into additional charge for government to pay to the doctor whereas pharmacist must to follow up after four days of providing prescription and government doesn’t have to pay for the follow up.
Pharmacies were paid $20 for every flu shot; with the new rules in place, the fee has come down to $13. As it was easy and convenient for patients to get flu shot at pharmacy it encouraged more people to take flu shot and pharmacies were also hiring additional pharmacist during flu season to meet the demand. With new pricing it might not be viable for pharmacy to hire additional staff for flu season resulting into delays for patient to get flu shot and may motivate them to skip flu shot all together. In that case there will be more flu patients in the clinic and hospitals resulting into higher wait time and additional costs for government.
The dispensing fee has also been reduced from $12.30 to $12.15 and in addition to that pharmacy will only be paid dispensing fees every 14 days even if they dispense medicine every day. This might encourage busy pharmacy to dispense medicine for 14 days together. This will put abuse potential patient at higher risk, this will add burden on hospitals.
It’s hard to compare pharmacies fees in Alberta with other provinces as you are not comparing an apple to an apple. There is difference in population and billing system. Many provinces has maximum 34 days billing period VS Alberta has 100 days billing period so patient doesn’t have to come every month for medicine, but they can get drug for 3 months to gather which is preferred by patients as well. So instead of 3 dispensing fees Alberta pharmacies get only 1 dispensing fee in such situation.
Moreover, Albertan pharmacists can order lab reports, prescribe refills, etc. unlike the pharmacies elsewhere. This saves a lot of money, for they’d have to pay a lot more to a physician for the same. The point is, the rules have affected not just the pharmacies, but the ultimate patient-care as well. Every change has been taken, keeping in mind the short-term goals, instead of checking the long-term viability of these plans.
On 19th April, pharmacists are going to protest the new rulings; Alberta Pharmacy Unite – their Facebook page can give more information on this. Anyone who wants to protest for a better healthcare system, a better patient-care, are being requested to join the marches in Calgary, Edmonton, and other places. But, the patients can rest assured, the pharmacies will remain open, to not let patient care take a backseat under any circumstances.