Lethbridge’s Real Canadian Superstore is now home to Alberta’s first walk-in health clinic led by pharmacists.
The clinic is set to start welcoming patients on Monday.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. and the University of Alberta have partnered to open the Pharmacist Walk-in Clinic, located on the second floor of the retailer’s only Lethbridge location.
According to Jeff Leger, head of pharmacy at Loblaw and president of Shoppers Drug Mart, the expanded scope of practice for Alberta’s pharmacists means they can provide similar care to what’s offered at regular health clinics.
“Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to relieve some of the burden on the province’s health-care system, and this innovative clinic will make access to care easier for residents in Lethbridge,” Leger said.
“In the pharmacy world, the awareness (is) the challenging part,” said clinic manager and pharmacist Justin Jensen.
“We need to expand the awareness of what pharmacists in Alberta can do, how far we can actually go.”
Alberta pharmacists cannot provide emergency care, but are able to undertake a variety of health-related tasks such as assessing patients and prescribing medications for minor illnesses and injuries.
“Examples being coughs, colds, (sore throat),” Jensen said. “We could do urinary tract infections. We could do sore muscles and joints.”
As well, pharmacists can order and receive lab results, assist with chronic disease management and administer medication by injection.
The new clinic was established with the goal of giving pharmacists the space to do those things, while in turn reducing trips to emergency rooms.
Health Minister Jason Copping said this is a small part of addressing difficulties facing many Albertans in accessing primary care.
Lethbridge is expected to add 11 more doctors by the end of the year, but an estimated 33,000 or more are currently without a family physician.
“This is an issue in Lethbridge, and quite frankly, across the province and across the country,” Copping said. “But one thing we have heard from health-care professionals, it’s not only about the family doctors — they’re incredibly important — but it’s about the entire health-care team.
“Pharmacists are part of that team.”
The pharmacist-led clinic initiative is a pilot program that will be assessed over the next six to 12 months.
“It is a clinic in a space that we owned, so that makes it quite easy for us to be able to have a long pilot and really get to the understanding of what works here, how can we replicate in other parts of the province,” Leger said.
Loblaw has provided the U of A with a $500,000 grant to allow researchers to support the evaluation of the clinic and to have students train and provide care on site.