Forget about the drug store commercials that tout pharmacists as friendly neighbourhood fixtures who look out for your family’s well being. The Ontario Medical Association is downgrading them to med-school dropouts who can’t tell a tummy ache from metastatic stomach cancer.
A new proposal floating around Queen’s Park would allow pharmacists to diagnose simple ailments (under strict regulations and training) and prescribe medication without an MD’s signature. According to the Toronto Star, the OMA is less than impressed.
The official party line seems to be that the proposal will compromise patient care, but if you’re fluent in between-the-linesese, the sub-text is pretty clear: a diagnosing pharmacist will steal away business and damage doctors’ bottom line.
On the one hand, I can sympathize. Canada’s MDs have spent four years in university, another four in medical school, and then 2-5+ completing residencies, not to mention dropping six figures in tuition fees.
On the other hand, it’s no secret that Canadian doctors are overworked, overtired and overly likely to make mistakes in this crap shoot of a system that isn’t getting any better, all while over a million Canadians are unable to find a family doctor. If strep throat-diagnosing pharmacists can lighten the load so doctors can focus on more important cases (I wonder how much time is eaten up each year by patients storming clinics and ERs demanding a cure for the flu).
Not only would it save doctors’ time, but it can only save time for patients as well. I, myself, get chronic ear infections — I have since I was a little kid — and usually suffer through them without medication because I can never find the time to haul my butt to my family doctor and wait for two hours just to get a prescription. By contrast, there are at least three Shoppers Drug Marts within walking distance to my house.
When is the system going to get its act together and start worrying about what is best for the health care system instead of playing tug-of-war with a couple Amoxicillin billings? How much worse is it going to get before things start looking up?
In other news, some related health care headlines, after the jump.
Cancer patients missing key surgeries: report
Your cold at its most contagious
Rapid treatment best for infants infected with HIV: study
Toronto leading the way in stem cell research
Next week: Why “But I never get sick!” is a bad excuse for not getting a flu shot.