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AMHERST - Pharmacists have been granted expanded powers by the government of Nova Scotia allowing them to, among other things, provide free flu shots.
"This is part of a package of more and expanded powers for pharmacists," said Ian Taylor, pharmacist and owner, operator at the Springhill Guardian pharmacy.
Besides flu shots, the legislation passed on Tuesday gives pharmacists the power to monitor and adjust a patient's blood-work, a job historically done by doctors.
"There's some drugs, such as Warfarin (a blood thinner), that have doses adjusted based on blood-work," said Taylor. "People get blood work done frequently and, depending on the test results, their dosage gets adjusted."
This is a trend that will see pharmacists offering therapies for minor ailments, and Taylor said many of the changes are due, in part, to changes in government funding.
"As far as our regular prescription model, most pharmacies are going to have to branch out a little bit and provide more services, such as providing vaccinations for hepatitis."
There are several roadblocks to overcome before pharmacists start giving free flu shots.
"The government passed the legislation and now our governing body (the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia) has to finalize all the standards of practice," said Taylor. "So we can't actually do all that stuff until those guidelines and standards of practice are published."
There is also a training component involved.
"There's quite an intensive course that goes along with that," said Taylor. "There's extra training in vaccination chemistry and biology, and hands on training for doing the injections properly."
Sean Cheverie, pharmacist and owner, operator of the Amherst Pharmasave says they have no immediate plans to expanded services.
He said doctors in Amherst are presently fulfilling the demand for flu shots but said he will give the expansion a more serious look if the workload becomes too heavy for local doctors.
Cherverie's greatest concern about the new legislation is that it fails to pinpoint exactly how pharmacists will be reimbursed for providing new services.
"It's tough for pharmacists to do things when government hasn't decided if they're gong to pay for it," said Cheverie. "When that becomes more clear then more people will be interested in doing it."
Nova Scotia joins New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia in giving pharmacists the authority to give flu shots.
"We've been waiting for legislation to pass for three years, so there's a lot of pharmacists, myself included, who have had the training for two years," said Taylor. "Hopefully by the fall flu season it will all be in place."