Now more than ever, pharmacists across Canada are speaking with one voice, and it’s the voice of change, determination, and optimism.
By Jane Auster
Photography by Brandon Lefebvre
Thanks to a timely rethinking of its governance structure, CPhA is even more focused on reflecting the interests of pharmacists in every province, whether banner, chain or independent. Leading the charge for change is CPhA chair Carlo Berardi, the pharmacist-owner of independent Nickel Centre Pharmacy in the Sudbury, Ont., area, for the past 23 years.
Why is the new governance model so important?
The new governance model represents a big change at CPhA. The previous board used to have its own separate election for board members, which came from its membership base. Now, under our new federated model, each provincial pharmacist association appoints a representative to sit on the CPhA board, who must be a pharmacist, and there are five directors at large who do not have to be pharmacists.
The result is, the provinces are now at the table, and there is strong alignment between CPhA and the provincial associations.
What’s driving this?
A good example is when we look at the health ministers of Canada, and how they are speaking with one unified voice. We’re similar in that we have to have a strong national association to stand firm with one unified voice for pharmacy. The timing is really important because we are at a real crossroads in terms of changes in the pharmacy profession.
We were at the annual meeting of premiers and territorial leaders, held in St. John’s in June, and it’s clear pharmacy in healthcare is gaining national awareness. We want to shift the national conversation on pharmacare. Whenever there is a discussion about pharmacare, we want to be part of it.
What are your patients saying about pharmacare?
We commissioned a survey from Abacus Data on Canadians’ attitudes toward pharmacare — a multi-phased policy development process designed to reboot the pharmacare conversation.
We released those results at the June premiers’ meeting. From that research, emerging themes show that Canadians want a pharmacare program that is evolutionary not revolutionary, building on, instead of replacing, their current private plan; they want a program that ensures no one is left behind without adequate coverage; and they want a program that offers more than just medications.
And it’s not just access to medications that Canadians want; it’s the care that comes with it. It is called pharmacare,” after all. Evidence clearly shows that when pharmacists are involved in care, health outcomes are improved at a lower cost to the healthcare system. And shouldn’t that be our goal?
You’ve just launched a new strategic plan. Why now?
We’re seeing our pharmacy profession undergo such significant changes. We are not seeing the same level of pharmacy services provided across Canada. How do we elevate the services pharmacists provide to raise up everyone in the profession? All of the provinces realize that we can’t have 10 individual associations going in different directions – we must have strong unified voice.
What are the key elements of the plan?
We have three pillars – to lead – stressing the importance of advocacy; to educate – by playing a role in delivering education programs for pharmacists with a Canadian perspective; and to innovate – making sure pharmacists have the tools to deliver the best information and advice to the public.
Why is the timing so important?
We know the public wants more pharmacy services, but governments have a limited amount of money to spend on healthcare. Nationally, all healthcare providers are moving toward a collaborative approach to healthcare, with the patient at the centre.
We have to make sure there is sustainable funding for pharmacy. The ongoing pharmacare narrative has been, up to now, narrowly focused. It has been about reducing drug prices instead of improving health outcomes. Such views miss the mark and risk missing opportunities to achieve cost savings in other areas of the health system. Governments need to recognize they aren’t going to be able to improve care and sustainability by focusing on drug costs alone, which only account for eight per cent of total public health expenditures. It’s the other 92 per cent where a real impact can be made.
You come to the chair as an independent pharmacist. What kind of perspective does that give you?
I still practise as a community pharmacist. I give flu shots, I am still dispensing, I am in the pharmacy, so I see firsthand when patients are thankful that we are helping to improve their health. When I talk to government, I get it, I understand, and I can tell them firsthand.
What are the top issues affecting independent pharmacy in Canada today?
I think the issues facing the independent pharmacies are the same as for the corporates – and that is the role government is going to play in shaping our future. Our biggest threat to us is no longer coming from each other. While the scale of our problems may be different, the issues we face are the same. There is a realization that we have to move in the same direction and work together. You can look for great things from CPhA. We have a lot to offer in terms of shaping the future of the profession.