B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan at announcement of primary care networks for people without a family doctor, May 24, 2018. (B.C. government)

Pharmacists to be added to B.C. primary care teams

Shift to salaried medical professionals overdue, Adrian Dix says

The B.C. government is hiring 50 clinical pharmacists to work in its province-wide primary health care teams, the NDP government’s key strategy for treating people without access to a family doctor.

The increase in complex, chronic health conditions means that one in five people over the age of 70 are taking five or more medications a day, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday at an announcement at UBC medical school.

“Embedding a clinical pharmacist in a patient’s primary-care team reduces the risk of adverse drug reactions, which rises with the complexity of the condition, a patient’s frailty, age and the number of medications prescribed,” Dix said.

Primary care networks are being established in 15 communities by this time next year, beginning in South Okanagan-Similkameen, Comox, Prince George, Richmond and Burnaby. The target is to establish them in 70 per cent of B.C. communities over the next three years.

Dix said B.C. is lagging behind other jurisdictions in shifting to a primary care model, which in B.C. includes funding for up to 200 new general practitioners working in team-based care.

The plan includes “urgent primary care centres” for people who do not have access to a family doctor or nurse practitioner. The 10 centres to be established by next year will provide weekend and after-hours care to take pressure off hospital emergency departments.

The current health ministry budget also includes 200 new nurse practitioner positions and 30 additional training spaces for nurse practitioners. Adding pharmacists to the teams is budgeted for $23 million over three years.

Dix said the primary care system will be a particular benefit to rural regions of the province, where innovations in care such as video conferencing have been used, and nurse practitioners have filled the gap in physician access.

RELATED: Primary care a shift for B.C. health system

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The approach has been endorsed by the Doctors of B.C. and the B.C. Nurse Practitioner Association.

“Networking with other professionals will allow doctors to focus more on direct patient care, enhancing the physician-patient relationship,” said Dr. Trina Larsen Soles, president of the Doctors of B.C.

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