Beginning Wednesday, Feb, 1, 11 pharmacies across the province will start booking appointments for people to get treatment for minor ailments or chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and COPD.  

It’s a pilot project aimed at allowing pharmacists to use their full training — what’s often called their “scope of practice — while easing some of the pressure on doctors. Pharmacies chosen for the project must have additional staff as well as additional space that can be allocated to see patients in a clinic setting within the store. 

“We’re building and testing a system where pharmacists can use all their training and skills to give people the care they need, in a place that’s often the closest place to home — their pharmacy,” said Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson at Tuesday’s announcement. “In doing this, we will help people stay well, and free up emergency departments for emergencies.” 

Thompson said the pilot will be evaluated to see if it can be copied in hundreds of other pharmacies around the province. Click here to visit to the website with more information about what services will be offered and how to make an appointment online or by phone.

‘Time will tell how effective it is’

With 129,000 people currently without a family doctor, the bulk of them in the Halifax Regional Municipality where the population is booming, Lorelei Nicoll, the Liberal MLA for Cole Harbour, said expanding health care delivered by pharmacists needs to happen even faster. 

“There are only three locations in HRM itself,” Nicoll said. “It is a pilot project and perhaps one of the limitations is whether other pharmacies have the space and can expand their services. Time will tell how effective it is.”  

A sign that says "book your appointment for" prescription renewals of all medications, birth control, uncomplicated bladder infections, mental health services, chronic disease managemen, immunizations and injections, strep throat, minor ailments, heartburn, allergies, cold sores, and more.
A list of the minor and chronic ailments some pharmacists in Nova Scotia can now treat. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

During the past 10 years since the Dexter government broadened the scope of how much they can do, pharmacist Alvin Thompkins at Wyse Road Shoppers Drug Mart in Dartmouth has been helping clients with cold sores, eczema, heartburn, and joint pain. During COVID, pharmacists became the go-to health care professional to book vaccine appointments for COVID, influenza, and shingles —some of which require the client to pay a fee.  

More recently the province began reimbursing pharmacists to provide contraception services, prescription renewals, Lyme disease prevention [injecting an antibiotic after a tick bite], and treatment for urinary tract infections.  

Sore throat? Ask a pharmacist 

Beginning Feb. 1, Thompkins will also be permitted to use recently provided training to diagnose and to treat strep throat.   

“I’ve been a pharmacist for 22 years, and our role in health care has changed a lot in that time,” Thompkins told reporters. “These new clinics will allow me to use my skills, training, and knowledge like never before. I’m eager for the clinic to open.” 

Nova Scotia pharmacists are now allowed to provide more services to patients than anywhere else in Canada, according to Bev Zwicker, the registrar of the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists. She and the CEO of the provincial pharmacy association believe it will be easier to recruit more pharmacists to come work here because job satisfaction should be higher in Nova Scotia where these professionals can use more of their post-secondary training. 

“We are thrilled pharmacists will be able to practice to their full scope,” said Allison Bodnar, CEO for the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia (PANS). “These clinics will be a quicker, easier way for people to get care and stay healthy.” 

Bodnar said the pharmacies in the demonstration project will each receive $7,000 a month to see patients who book appointments in the clinic. The Department of Health is providing $1 million to run this project, which builds on work underway for the past year at Lawtons Drugs in New Glasgow, Truro, New Minas, and Lower Sackville.  

Project a piece of ‘transformation’ of health care

Thompson said this project is one piece of the “transformation” of the health care system. Gary Burrill, the NDP member representing Halifax Chebucto, said one of the most important things about the announcement is that people will no longer have to pay out of pocket. 

“We have seen pharmacists able to provide services, but they had to be paid for outside the MSI system. That meant there was a financial barrier to accessing the care,” Burrill said. “So, at the core of this announcement is that money will not change hands between patients and care providers. This will be a publicly provided service.” 

For patients without a family doctor or nurse practitioner, being able to book an appointment with a pharmacist for a minor or a chronic issue might be a huge help. For patients with access to a doctor or nurse practitioner, the pharmacist must send a record of any treatment or prescription to the patient’s primary care provider.            

Here’s a list of pharmacy locations with appointments available Feb 1:  

  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 118 Wyse Rd., Dartmouth 
  • Guardian Bedford, 535 Larry Uteck Blvd., Bedford 
  • North Sydney PharmaChoice, 107 King St., North Sydney 
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 254 Prince St., Sydney 
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 912 East River Rd., New Glasgow 
  • The Medicine Shoppe, 664 Prince St., Truro 
  • Wilsons Pharmasave, 213 Commercial St., Berwick 
  • Bridgewater Guardian Pharmacy, 42 Glen Allan Dr., Bridgewater 
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1124 Bridge St., Greenwood 
  • TLC Pharmasave, 157 Water St., Shelburne 
  • City Drug Store, 369 Main St., Yarmouth 

Brookline Pharmacy at 105-6 Bloom Lane, Bedford, will have appointments starting later in February. 

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. We should be careful what we wish for. This sounds as if it comes straight from the Conservative privatization instruction book. Deny people doctors. Make them desperate. Offer them private clinics paid for by Medicare – for now! If pharmacists can set up clinics you can bet there’ll be some privatization friendly doctors and surgeons who will want to copy the model. All at no cost to the patient – for now.

    Why not set up community clinics with doctors, doctor assistants, and nurse practitioners, and maybe even pharmacists, all on staff to provide these services?