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300,000 people have received free contraceptives, expanded pharmacist care in B.C., Eby says

Recent provincial changes allow pharmacists to prescribe for minor ailments and dispense free contraceptives, reducing doctor visits.
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Premier David Eby and Mahin Hanifian, pharmacist and owner of Lynn Valley Shoppers Drug Mart, address the media for an update on recent changes allowing pharmacists to prescribe for minor ailments and dispense free contraceptives, Dec. 8, 2023. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

Roughly 300,000 people in B.C. have gone to their pharmacists for prescriptions and/or free contraception since the provincial programs began offering them in April and June this year.

Premier David Eby delivered an update on the programs at the Lynn Valley Shoppers Drug Mart in North Vancouver on Friday.

Eby said 129,000 people have gone to pharmacists to get prescriptions for minor ailments like pinkeye, rashes, urinary tract infections and allergies in the last six months – issues that once would have required an appointment with a doctor or a trip to the walk-in clinic.

“It's faster and easier for people to access health care, especially those without a family doctor. It relieves pressure on clinics and emergency rooms,” Eby said.

Since B.C. became the first province in Canada to make contraception free in April, 188,000 people have taken advantage, Eby said, saving them $300 per year if they are on the pill, and $400 for an IUD.

Eby noted that his wife is a family doctor who, until this year, frequently heard from patients that they could not afford the cost.

North Vancouver-Seymour MLA Susie Chant, who is also a registered nurse, said the update is reason to celebrate.

“Costs should never be a barrier in accessing health care. This is one of our government’s foundational values, and free contraceptives empowers more people to make the choice about their reproductive health that’s right for them,” she said.

Mahin Hanifian, pharmacist and owner of Lynn Valley Shoppers, said she was proud of how her colleagues had stepped up to benefit the health of British Columbians.

“I’m extremely happy with the opportunity that has been provided for pharmacists to be there, to be accessible for our patients and reduce the pressure from the other sectors of the health care [system],” she said. “I hope to see more expansion of our scope of practice.”

While on the subject of everyone’s health, Eby said 1.25 million British Columbians had received their updated COVID-19 vaccines so far, and 1.42 million had this year’s flu shot.

He encouraged everyone who hadn’t gotten theirs yet to sign up and do it quickly.

“It’s free. It’s easy, and pharmacists are waiting to assist. You really want to do this before the holidays. Let me assure you. If you’re a sick parent with kids or you have a sick kid during the holiday break, there is nothing more miserable than the sixth round of Paw Patrol Saves Christmas,” he said. “We don’t want you in the hospital. You don’t want to be in hospital during the holiday break.”

A full list of 21 ailments that pharmacists can now provide prescriptions for is available at gov.bc.ca/seeapharmacist.

Vaccination appointments can be booked at immunizebc.ca.

brichter@nsnews.com
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