Masset and Old Massett residents will be getting their prescriptions filled at a commercial pharmacy in the Vancouver Airport and flown up, under a trial partnership between Northern Health and Pharmasave.
The new system started this week, said Susan Beckermann, Northern Health’s health service administrator for Rupert and the Charlottes.
“We’re starting small, and hoping it will be successful,” said Ms Beckermann, adding that the partnership is an innovative solution to a chronic shortage of pharmacists and a first in BC.
Northern Health has been advertising for a second pharmacist to work on the islands for over a year with no success, Ms Beckermann said.
The Masset pharmacy is staffed by a technician who used to fax prescriptions to the pharmacy in Queen Charlotte. Those will now be sent to Pharmasave instead, Ms Beckermann said. Patients should notice no difference in service, but it should relieve pressure on the Queen Charlotte pharmacy, she said.
According to Northern Health, prescriptions and refills processed by Pharmasave will be shipped to Masset within 24 hours, five days a week, with shipping costs covered by Pharmasave. Pharmasave is also setting up a 1-800 number to allow patients to consult a pharmacist seven days a week free of charge.
Ms Beckermann said shipping is Pharmasave’s responsibility, and that the store is aware of the challenges of flying freight to the islands.
“That’s going to be part of what we need to monitor,” she said.
Northern Health hopes the system could eventually be expanded to the south end of the islands, she said. The Queen Charlotte pharmacy would still be responsible for providing drugs for patients in the two hospitals.
The partnership will free up staff time at the Queen Charlotte pharmacy and could possibly lead to a methadone program on the islands, Ms Beckermann said. Methadone is used to treat people who have a drug addiction or who are going through an acute withdrawal, but it needs extremely careful preparation and the program takes a lot of physician, pharmacist and nurse time. Right now, islanders who want the program must go off-island, but the pharmacy partnership opens up the possibility that it could be offered here.
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