Premier Dalton McGuinty announced ways in which the government is "improving access to care for Ontario"
Credits: ANTONELLA ARTUSO/QMI AGENCY
"We're only at about one-third of Ontarians getting that flu shot and we think that if we can make it a little bit easier, a little bit more accessible, for Ontarians to do that, that's a great thing," McGuinty said Tuesday, announcing an expanded scope of practice for pharmacists.
The health care professionals will also be able to renew prescriptions for up to six months for most drugs, excluding narcotics.
Dennis Darby, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association, said pharmacists are ready to take on the additional duties.
"In some parts of the country, in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia for example, pharmacists provide counselling and prescriptions for minor ailments... it could be cold sores, or it could be a yeast infection, it could be poison ivy," Darby said. "We're not there yet but we're on the way."
An estimated 600 of the province's 3,500 pharmacies will offer the flu shot this year but that number is expected to grow.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said that in BC, where the service is offered by pharmacists, more than 50% of the population gets the shot.
Pharmacies will be paid $7.50 per flu shot, and can offer the vaccine to anyone over the age of five years old starting Oct 22.
In addition, pharmacists will gain the right to prescribe medication to help smokers kick the nicotine habit.
They'll also be able to demonstrate how to use an asthma inhaler or inject insulin.
NDP Health Critic France Gelinas said provincial legislation permitting the expanded scope of practice has been in place for three years but the government is only now implementing the changes.
"It is here now, hallelujah!" Gelinas said.
While she welcomes the move, Gelinas said she would still prefer to see pharmacists as part of a health care team with access to other professionals and patients' health care plans, rather than functioning as individuals in yet another silo in the system.