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Alberta relaxes COVID-19 rapid test program requirements for pharmacies

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Alberta's health minister is dispelling rumours that the COVID-19 rapid test program is coming to an end after billing changes to pharmacies were announced.

Although pharmacies are receiving less compensation from the province for giving out kits, demand for the self-administered tests remains.

Last month, pharmacies could bill more than $500 for distributing for a box of 108 rapid test kits.

"As of now, we are just getting a one-time fee for a box of 100 testing kits. It's $60," said Shawn Liu, Access Pharmacy owner and pharmacist.

Health minister Jason Copping said the drop in compensation is due to the government lessening the administration workload associated with distributing the COVID-19 tests.

"We eliminated almost all the administrative work for pharmacists who are providing these test kits to Albertans," Copping said. "The previous process was time-consuming and some pharmacists chose not to participate because of it."

The main change is that pharmacists no longer have to keep track of how often people are picking kits up, which Liu says will save time.

"We had to keep track of everybody's Alberta Health Care number, make sure everybody was only getting one test kit every two weeks," he told CTV News Edmonton.

"So that was a lot of administration work on our end," he added. "We had to hire extra staff on the days when we were giving out the testing kits."

More than a million tests have been ordered by pharmacies across the province since the end of March, Copping said.

"We have an ample supply of testing kits and participating pharmacies can continue to order them as needed to meet demand," the health minister added. "I encourage everyone to pick up kits for their household so they're prepared if symptoms develop.”

Albertans are still being asked to pick up one box per person every 14 days. Each box contains five tests.

Liu says demand for the kits at his pharmacy has increased in the last few weeks, with upwards of 300 kits handed out each week.

"I don't think supply is much of an issue," he said. "We can get as much as we want as long as we ask our distributors."

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