Bolstered by early successes, drugstores are accelerating their push into conventional well being care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loblaw Companies Ltd., which started providing COVID-19 testing for sufferers at a handful of its Alberta pharmacy areas in June, plans to increase this system to all 234 of its pharmacies within the province by Sept. 1.
The firm says it has reached out to all 10 provinces to debate in-retailer testing exterior Alberta, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford this week acknowledging the likelihood.
The swab exams are just for these with no signs or any identified contact with coronavirus sufferers and could also be helpful for lecturers returning to high school or Canadians who take care of an older member of the family, mentioned Theresa Firestone, head of well being and wellness at Shoppers Drug Mart. Loblaw-owned pharmacy areas embrace Shoppers shops as effectively as Independent Foods and No Frills.
“It’s very convenient. We’re in every community. The other plus is they don’t have to line up with people who may have symptoms. We’ve shared that with Ontario and with other provinces, so at this point we’re looking forward to what they may decide,” Firestone mentioned.
London Drugs additionally conducts COVID-19 exams in Alberta. It started providing the service at six areas through the previous two weeks and plans to roll it out at 9 extra by October. Like Shoppers, it payments Alberta Health Services for testing prices.
The service builds on different responses to the pandemic such as on-line pharmacist consultations and a pilot program the place sufferers seek the advice of just about with medical doctors in a personal room within the retailer.
London Drugs, whose 82 shops are situated throughout all 4 Western provinces, is among the many pharmacy retailers beefing up their function in a health-care system grappling with an growing older inhabitants.
“With the extended hours of operation, you can basically go in when our stores are open and be able to find a pharmacist to ask a question. So what we’re able to do at that point is basically help triage the system,” mentioned Chris Chiew, head of pharmacy on the Richmond, B.C.-based retailer.
London Drugs has additionally employed diabetes educators to check blood sugar and levels of cholesterol and help sufferers with weight administration and diet.
Shoppers has stepped even additional into the realm of physicians, opening one of three deliberate medical clinics with medical doctors who cater to a roster of sufferers and stroll-in companies.
“There are a number of Canadians who don’t have access to a family physician. And we thought there was an opportunity for us to really play a role here in terms of access,” Firestone mentioned.
Drugstores may also deal with the bureaucratic facet of well being care, liberating up medical doctors to spend extra time with sufferers, she mentioned.
“Looking for PPE (personal protective equipment), sorting out their waiting rooms so that people are socially distanced, managing virtual care…we’re able to take that burden on for them,” Firestone mentioned.
Community entry and comfort are a crucial benefit drugstores can domesticate as thinning revenue margins immediate them to look past over-the-counter gross sales for earnings.
“Drugstores have faced tighter margins for generic drugs in recent years and have been looking for alternative sources of revenue,” mentioned University of Calgary economics professor Aidan Hollis.
Some provinces now enable pharmacists to vaccinate sufferers — flu photographs, for instance — and write prescriptions for sure medicine, such as contraception, as effectively as prolong prescription refills for power medicines.
“In addition, pharmacies find it attractive to draw patients in for health care even if they don’t earn profits on supplying health care: once the patients are there they may purchase other goods,” Hollis mentioned.
Drugstore chains below the umbrella of McKesson Canada, together with Rexall, Guardian and I.D.A., have additionally began to supply the exams and have carried out greater than 6,000 so far.
Metro Inc. declined to touch upon any makes an attempt to offer COVID-19 testing. The bulk of the corporate’s Jean Coutu drugstores are situated in Quebec, which not like some provinces doesn’t enable pharmacists to conduct testing through nostril and mouth swabs.
B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba haven’t expressed specific curiosity in asymptomatic testing in pharmacies, in accordance with London Drugs, which has reached out to all three provinces.
“They have the capacity right now to be able to do the number of tests that they want to do,” Chiew mentioned.
Ontario carried out 24,353 exams final week and may course of up to 33,000 weekly by its provincial lab community, the well being ministry mentioned.
“We are looking at ways of enhancing access to testing. Having pharmacies function as testing centres is currently under consideration,” spokeswoman Miriam Mohamadi mentioned in an e-mail.
“How to integrate pharmacies into the COVID-19 diagnostic network, specifically how they would function and for whom they would be appropriate, is being explored.”
Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
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