Skip to main content

Albertans mixed on expansion of pharmacy care clinics


Pharmacists say an announcement to bring 103 primary care clinics to Alberta doesn't change the care they’ve already been providing to Albertans for 15 years.

Still, critics question the quality of care Albertans can expect from pharmacists and how family doctors fit into the province's health care plans.

"This is a win for everyone from patients to front line workers, and it’s a relief for our overburdened system," Premier Danielle Smith said at an announcement on Thursday.

Smith says that relief is coming from Shoppers Drug Mart in the form of 103 new or renovated primary care clinics opening across Alberta by the end of the year.

"Part of it is just marketing but I think it's great to make the public aware," said Will Leung, a pharmacist at Strathcona Prescription Centre.

He said nothing in the $77 million announcement changes the care pharmacists have been providing for years.

"It could be anything from minor ailments, blood pressure, renewing medications and so forth until they are able to see their physician," Leung explained.

He said it's critical pharmacists only prescribe within their scope of practice and refer to other health care professionals as needed, a concern for some family doctors.

"As a pharmacist, they are not going to know what they don't know," said Dr. Noel Grisdale, a rural family physician in Diamond Valley, Alta.

"If you aren’t trained in that vein, you aren’t going to know when you are missing something because you aren’t trained to assess for it."

Dr. Grisdale believes the announcement puts patients at risk and trivializes the work of physicians.

"To me it was a dismissal. 'You aren’t that important, we can get pharmacists who aren’t even trained to do it, to take care of our patients.' Great," he said.

Lorian Hardcastle, a health and law professor at the University of Alberta, also has concerns.

"On the one hand, we see these alternatives to primary care popping up. But they are not really alternatives because they don’t deliver the same quality of care," she told CTV News Edmonton.

Albertans on the streets of the capital Friday were split on the issue.

"It would be helpful to just go see a pharmacist, for example she gets strep throat often, it would be great if they could just swab it and be done," Nicole Cameron said.

"I would seek out a family physician because I know my family healthcare is tailored to me," said Jacob Ng.

"Personally, I live on the road quite a bit. Flexibility would be great,' said Pavel Vengretsed.

In a statement the Alberta College of Pharmacy said pharmacy teams can’t provide medical services that physicians do, adding pharmacies "must not engage in advertising that is untruthful, inaccurate, or otherwise capable of misleading or misinforming the public."

Shoppers Drug Mart opened its first pharmacy care clinic in Lethbridge, Alta., in June 2022. The stores are owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

Stay Connected