Michelle Gray and Lei Lei Wu, pharmacists at Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy in Kimberley.

Michelle Gray and Lei Lei Wu, pharmacists at Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy in Kimberley.

Expanded pharmacy services bring added convenience, health benefits to Kootenay residents

Kimberley pharmacist applauds expansion of pharmacy services across BC

As of Oct. 14, 2022, the Ministry of Health has expanded pharmacy services across BC, with more changes planned for the spring of 2023.

“The expanded services are an extension of what we already do, and within the scope of our pharmacy training. It just means we’re less restricted, so we can step up to alleviate the pressure on our healthcare system and help British Columbians — especially the million-plus people without a family doctor,” says Michelle Gray, pharmacist and owner of Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy in Kimberley.

The BC Pharmacy Association has been asking for this expanded scope of practice for over a decade, and many other provinces have already adopted similar standards with great success. Michelle believes that three separate factors within the pandemic inspired the Ministry of Health to act now.

  1. Increased demand for healthcare services. Patients overwhelming walk-in clinics and emergency rooms to refill stable prescriptions will now be able to receive care at pharmacies, alleviating pressure on other primary care workers.
  2. Healthcare worker shortage. An aging healthcare workforce and expedited retirements during pandemic has led to a shortage of workers across many sectors, including primary care.
  3. A demonstrated aptitude for increased responsibility. “Through pandemic, the provincial government and BC Pharmacy Association showed how much pharmacists can do in a short amount of time. The BC Pharmacy Association took on the distribution, communication and administration of flu vaccines and later, COVID-19 vaccinations,” Michelle says. “We showed that pharmacists are united, solution-based and advocate for the health of our patients. Pharmacists in every community across BC stepped up to show the value we bring in helping our province through the pandemic and beyond.”

Expanded scope of practice for pharmacists across BC

Some changes to pharmacy services in BC are already in effect, with other adjustments coming in spring 2023.

  • BC pharmacists can now renew prescriptions for people who do not have a family doctor. Patients must be established on the prescription for at least six months with no clinical change. “For something like blood pressure medication patients may be monitoring at home, or we can take their blood pressure in the pharmacy. Pharmacists can’t yet order lab work, but we do have access to those results and can make clinical decisions based on that information,” Michelle says.
  • Prescription renewals up to two years from prescribing date. Previously pharmacists were able to renew some prescriptions up to one year from the date the doctor wrote the initial prescription.
  • Emergency refills increased from 30 days to 90 days. “If your doctor retires, their prescriptions are immediately void — even if there are still refills on those prescriptions. In those cases pharmacists can’t offer longer prescriptions up to the two-year date when the prescription was written, but we can offer longer emergency refills to alleviate some stress,” Michelle says.
  • More lengthy refills for medications affecting mental health. Previously, pharmacists could only offer 30 day emergency refills for mental health medications. Now your pharmacist can provide a full refill. “When you’re facing a mental health challenge, accessing care and prescriptions adds one more layer of stress, which can cause more mental health symptoms. Most pharmacists have a strong relationship with our clients already, so we’re in a good position to assess their mental state and whether or not a doctor’s visit is required.”
  • One-time renewals on narcotics and controlled medications up to the same amount as initially prescribed. This change allows pharmacists to lend a hand in the ongoing opiates overdose crisis, and prevent patients from falling through the cracks if they miss an appointment.
  • Expanded injections services. Pharmacists can now administer all medications via injection, like vitamin B12 and Depo-Provera, to name a few. Previously pharmacists were only authorized to administer vaccines. Patients can now have the other medications injected at their pharmacy, which will allow for a more timely, convenient option for the patient and alleviate some of the pressures at physician’s clinics.

If you need primary care and don’t know where to turn, ask your pharmacist. They may be able to help, or at least connect you with the right services.

“Physicians are trained in diagnostics as well as treatment, and have a large enough workload with complex care cases and patients facing multiple disease states,” Michelle says. “Pharmacists have a lot of clinical experience with all disease states, medications involved and how they can be appropriately combined. We’re treatment specialists, up to date on advances in medications, bringing essential knowledge and service to primary health care.”

Visit Kimberley’s award-winning Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy at 417B 304th St. on Highway 95 in Kimberley, open Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. You can also get in touch by calling 250-427-0038, emailing pharmacist@grayspharmacy.ca, or at facebook.com/grayspharmacy.


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