Credit Where Credit's Due: McGuinty's Liberals Get One Right
October 9, 2012 by Paul McKeever
Ontario’s government today announced that pharmacists are no longer among those prohibited by law from performing certain services. The government’s news release featured the fact that pharmacists will now be able to administer the flu shot. For those – especially seniors – who find it difficult or inconvenient to get to the more limited number of places where flu shots are administered, this is certainly an added convenience. But the bombshell change is this: “…pharmacists can now also: Renew or adapt existing prescriptions…”. That is a major, praiseworthy change.
Until this change, a physician could – in the name of monitoring your health diligently – force you to come in for a visit before he/she would agree to renew your prescription. For doctors paid on a piecework basis, that meant extra cash for the physician, usually for what amounts to a 2 minute conversation akin to: “Do you feel the medicine is working for you? Any problems?”. And, in most cases, getting in to see the physician for that patent waste of time could take days or weeks, or hours of waiting in a walk-in clinic (if you could get there before they met their daily quota which, in my area, normally takes about 20 minutes: get there in the first 20 minutes, or you’re not getting served).
Such delays are not merely a personal inconvenience. In some cases, a patient may have run out of his/her medicine – medicine upon which he or she depends greatly (e.g., blood pressure medications). Such a person cannot afford to wait days to see his/her physician. And, although a small emergency quantity will sometimes be provided by a pharmacist to tide the patient over until he/she can see a physician, the prospect of being without much needed medicine – of being held hostage to get a renewal – can be very distressing.
No more. If things are being liberalized as much as the government’s media release states, the pharmacist’s new freedom to renew prescriptions will put an end to the waiting, and the distress. In addition, the move will reduce government payments to physicians for unnecessary visits.
This move is by no means something that will make a government monopoly on health payments sustainable. Nor is there such a thing. The simple fact is that quality health care, moving forward, will require an end to the tax-funded government monopoly on paying for health care.
However, this change is at least in the right direction. If it liberates only pharmacists just a bit, at least it is a move in the direction of liberation, rather than of restriction.
To be sure, given the list of bad decisions made by the McGuinty Liberals over the past 9 years, this change may serve only to prove that even a broken clock is right twice per day. Nonetheless, I give credit where credit is due: Bravo!