On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic, citing concern over alarming levels of spread and severity across the globe.
The pandemic brought with it many challenges to respond to, challenges which will continue to evolve in the coming years.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies we regulate have been vital in ensuring British Columbians continue to receive the medications and the knowledge they need to manage, prevent and treat a multitude of diseases and symptoms.
Throughout 2020, in order to support the response to this new disease as part of BC’s health system, the College worked closely with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the BC Centre for Substance Use and other partners to share vital information and enact practice changes for pharmacy professionals intended to reduce unnecessary practice strain and provide broader flexibility to continue to ensure adequate continuity of care for BC patients.
Here are some of the things the College did to support BC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Provided regular updates and guidance to BC’s patients and pharmacy professionals through our dedicated resource page: bcpharmacists.org/COVID19.
- Recognized BC’s pharmacy professionals for their commitment to providing continuity of care and working on the frontlines to provide high quality pharmacy care to British Columbians during this pandemic.
- Worked with the Ministry of Health to maintain the viability of our health care system by encouraging pharmacists to provide emergency supplies to patients with expired prescriptions, including narcotics, psychiatric drugs and anti-psychotics for chronic conditions. Pharmacists were also given latitude to provide early refills for people so that they could self-isolate.
- Provided self-isolation guidance for pharmacy professionals who have been deemed critical to the operation of their pharmacy, as well as additional guidance for critical pharmacy staff on appropriate measures to take in order to protect their colleagues, patients and the public.
- Developed a risk-assessment tool to assist pharmacy managers and owners in determining the necessary self-isolation measures needed for pharmacy staff affected by COVID-19.
- Released a joint statement on the unproven therapies for COVID-19 together with the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons and the BC College of Nurses and Midwives, in order to address misinformation about potentially dangerous uses of existing medications.
- Accelerated the implementation of new delivery requirements for Opioid Agonist Treatment to support continuity of care for BC OAT patients. These requirements allow pharmacists to use their professional judgement to deliver drugs to a patient if they feel it is safe, appropriate and in the best interest of the patient to do so.
- Amended the Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act Bylaws and the Community Pharmacy Standards of Practice to allow temporary exemptions for prescriptions of controlled substances. These amendments align with Health Canada’s temporary exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and permit pharmacists to transfer a prescription for a controlled substance, and to accept verbal and faxed prescriptions for controlled substances.
- Granted CE exemptions for the Professional Development and Assessment Program (PDAP) for all registrant renewals between March 31, 2020 and February 28, 2021, in order to alleviate the added pressure and responsibility placed on BC’s pharmacy professionals as a result of COVID-19.
- Issued a temporary exemption allowing injectable drugs, previously dispensed for the purpose of providing Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), to be returned to inventory during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Enabled eligible individuals to apply for temporary registration to provide pharmacy services - including COVID-19 vaccinations - during the COVID-19 pandemic, by amending the Health Professions Act Bylaws. .
- Administered the Jurisprudence Exam (JE) as a computer-based examination by partnering with Prometric. The JE may be taken on-site at a Prometric Test Center or as a remotely proctored online examination at a location that meets the requirements.