It has now been more than a year since COVID-19 changed the way we all live and work, and as essential healthcare workers, pharmacy professionals have been on the front lines of the pandemic since day one. While the challenge has been enormous, we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel in the form of new vaccines to combat this virus. And, once again, pharmacy professionals are being asked to use their skills and knowledge to play a role by helping to vaccinate patients as part of the next phase of the province’s COVID-19 Immunization Program.
Earlier this year, the government passed amendments temporarily enabling a registrant of the College who is a Part A pharmacist, intern, registered pharmacy student or pharmacy technician to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, without needing delegations of authority, under the condition they are engaged to do so by an organization or other entity that has signed an agreement with the Minister of Health for this purpose.
The importance of collaboration at this juncture cannot be emphasized enough and this is great news for the millions of Ontarians who are expected to want access to the vaccine in the coming months.
I urge all pharmacy professionals to help in the battle against vaccine hesitancy by ensuring you are well-versed in the evidence and only relying upon and sharing credible sources of information about the vaccines. I am pleased to be co-chairing the Ontario campaign for 19 to Zero, a dedicated coalition of healthcare providers, academics, public health experts, behavioural economists, and creative professionals working to understand, engage with, and ultimately shift public perceptions around COVID-19 behaviours and vaccination. The College is a proud participant in this group, and we will continue to explore ways to encourage vaccination against COVID-19 and to support pharmacy’s future role in the distribution of the vaccine.
Community Practice Environment
Listening to input from registrants and patients is an important part of how the College makes decisions as the pharmacy regulator in Ontario, and over the past few years we have consistently heard feedback about the practice environment in community pharmacy. Registrants have expressed concerns about workload, the importance of professional autonomy and ensuring an environment that is conducive to maximizing their ability to meet practice expectations and standards. Patients have raised issues with access to care in increasingly busy pharmacies and have commented on the need for adequate staffing.
Safe, quality patient care is a shared accountability for pharmacy professionals and those who own, operate or influence the operation of pharmacy. To address the feedback we have heard, the College launched a Community Practice Environment Initiative with the goal of developing a set of principles to guide the College, community pharmacy owners and operators, professional associations and pharmacy professionals in creating specific solutions and strategies that further strengthen the safety and quality of pharmacy care.
In December, the OCP Board endorsed a set of shared accountability principles that were developed by an Advisory Group of stakeholders with extensive feedback from patients and registrants. The College has now established a working group to translate these principles into provider experience indicators to further the work of the College in developing Quality metrics for the profession. The College also continues to work with the Advisory Group to further explore ways to implement the principles and improve the community practice environment for the benefit of all—with a particular focus on enhancing safety and health outcomes for patients. You can read more about the Community Practice Environment Initiative in this edition of Pharmacy Connection, and we will continue to share information throughout the year.