Bolstered by early successes, drugstores are accelerating their push into traditional health care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loblaw Companies Ltd., which began offering COVID-19 testing for patients at a handful of its Alberta pharmacy locations in June, plans to expand the program to all 234 of its pharmacies in the province by Sept. 1.
The company says it has reached out to all 10 provinces to discuss in-store testing outside Alberta, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford this week acknowledging the possibility.
The swab tests are only for those with no symptoms or any known contact with coronavirus patients and may be useful for teachers returning to school or Canadians who take care of an older family member, said Theresa Firestone, head of health and wellness at Shoppers Drug Mart. Loblaw-owned pharmacy locations include Shoppers stores as well as Independent Foods and No Frills.
“It’s very convenient. We’re in every community. The other plus is they don’t have to line up with people who may have symptoms. We’ve shared that with Ontario and with other provinces, so at this point we’re looking forward to what they may decide,” Firestone said.
London Drugs also conducts COVID-19 tests in Alberta. It began offering the service at six locations during the past two weeks and plans to roll it out at nine more by October. Like Shoppers, it bills Alberta Health Services for testing costs.
The service builds on other responses to the pandemic such as online pharmacist consultations and a pilot program where patients consult virtually with doctors in a private room in the store.
London Drugs, whose 82 stores are located across all four Western provinces, is among the pharmacy retailers beefing up their role in a health-care system grappling with an aging population.
“With the extended hours of operation, you can basically go in when our stores are open and be able to find a pharmacist to ask a question. So what we’re able to do at that point is basically help triage the system,” said Chris Chiew, head of pharmacy at the Richmond, B.C.-based retailer.
London Drugs has also hired diabetes educators to test blood sugar and cholesterol levels and assist patients with weight management and diet.
Shoppers has stepped even further into the realm of physicians, opening one of three planned medical clinics with doctors who cater to a roster of patients and walk-in services.
“There are a number of Canadians who don’t have access to a family physician. And we thought there was an opportunity for us to really play a role here in terms of access,” Firestone said.
Drugstores can also handle the bureaucratic side of health care, freeing up doctors to spend more time with patients, she said.
“Looking for PPE (personal protective equipment), sorting out their waiting rooms so that people are socially distanced, managing virtual care…we’re able to take that burden on for them,” Firestone said.
Community access and convenience are a critical advantage drugstores can cultivate as thinning profit margins prompt them to look beyond over-the-counter sales for income.
“Drugstores have faced tighter margins for generic drugs in recent years and have been looking for alternative sources of revenue,” said University of Calgary economics professor Aidan Hollis.
Some provinces now allow pharmacists to vaccinate patients – flu shots, for example – and write prescriptions for certain medication, such as birth control, as well as extend prescription refills for chronic medications.
“In addition, pharmacies find it attractive to draw patients in for health care even if they don’t earn profits on supplying health care: once the patients are there they may purchase other goods,” Hollis said.
Drugstore chains under the umbrella of McKesson Canada, including Rexall, Guardian and I.D.A., have also started to offer the tests and have conducted more than 6,000 to date.
Metro Inc. declined to comment on any attempts to provide COVID-19 testing. The bulk of the company’s Jean Coutu drugstores are located in Quebec, which unlike some provinces does not allow pharmacists to conduct testing via nose and mouth swabs.
B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba have not expressed particular interest in asymptomatic testing in pharmacies, according to London Drugs, which has reached out to all three provinces.
“They have the capacity right now to be able to do the number of tests that they want to do,” Chiew said.
Ontario conducted 24,353 tests last week and can process up to 33,000 weekly through its provincial lab network, the health ministry said.
“We are looking at ways of enhancing access to testing. Having pharmacies function as testing centres is currently under consideration,” spokeswoman Miriam Mohamadi said in an email.
“How to integrate pharmacies into the COVID-19 diagnostic network, specifically how they would function and for whom they would be appropriate, is being explored.”
Sudbury health officials confirm eighth new COVID-19 case in 8 days – CTV Toronto
Health officials in Sudbury have confirmed the eighth new case in just over a week.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts say this latest case appears to be the result of community spread, with the exposure being unknown.
The case is the 102nd in the region. The person is now self-isolating.
This latest case comes just one day after the premier announced restrictions province-wide on social gatherings, just days after imposing these limits in the province’s current hot spots of Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region.
Anyone who is a close contact of this latest case will be contacted by public health officials.
Take the COVID-19 self-assessment here.
CBC Windsor September 20 COVID-19 update: 9 new cases and new limits on gatherings – CBC.ca
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported nine new cases of COVID-19 in the region this weekend.
Six of the new cases are from people having close contact with confirmed cases, two of the cases were acquired in the community and one case is under investigation.
There are 86 people with the virus currently in self isolation.
According to the health unit, 76 people have died because of the virus and 2,453 cases are resolved.
As of Sunday, three senior facilities are considered to be in outbreaks, the most recent being Dolce Vita in Windsor which has had an outbreak since September 10. Four residents and two staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility.
Rosewood Erie Glen in Leamington had one staff member test positive for the virus. New Begninnings, also in Leamington, has had an outbreak since August 10 where 21 residents have tested positive along with seven staff members.
New gathering limits take hold
On Saturday, the province of Ontario extended its limits on social gatherings to the entire province which were previously imposed in just the Toronto, Peel region and Ottawa areas.
The decision comes following “alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province.”
“Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction,” the premier said in a release. “We need everyone to follow the public health rules in order to prevent another province wide lockdown, and protect all our citizens, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.”
The limit on indoor gatherings was reduced from 50 people down to ten people, and only 25 people are allowed to gather outside rather than the previous limit of 100 people.
The new limits, which were made effective immediately, will apply to functions such as, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.
Organizers who hold such events face a minimum $10,000 fine.
The rules do not apply to “events or gatherings held in staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events.”
The limits are set to be in place for the next 28 days.
Potential public exposures
Over the past few weeks, the health unit has flagged several businesses for potential COVID-19 exposures.
In each case, a customer or staff member has tested positive and the health unit wants anybody who may have come into contact to be alerted, self-monitor for symptoms and seek care if symptoms develop.
The affected businesses and dates include:
- The Chelsea at 576 Ouellette Ave. on Sept. 6
- Spagos at 3850 Dougall Ave. on Sept. 6, Sept. 9, Sept. 10
- Crunch Fitness LaSalle at 5844 Malden Rd. on Sept. 8.
COVID-19 in Sarnia-Lambton
Lambton Public Health has recorded a total of 344 cases of COVID-19.
Two cases are currently active and 317 are resolved.
Twenty-five people have died.
COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent
Chatham-Kent Public Health reported no new cases on Sunday. There have been a total of 366 positive cases, with three active cases in the community.
Two of those cases are active and 362 people have recovered.
Two people have died from the virus in the region.
Nova Scotia reports no new coronavirus cases for 13th straight day – Global News
Nova Scotia is reporting no new cases of the novel coronavirus for the 13th day in a row.
Sunday also marks the third day with no active cases of the virus in the province.
On Friday the province announced it is easing restrictions by increasing the gathering limit for organized sports and performing arts.
The number of people allowed to participate, including coaches, crew and anyone involved, is now 50.
A news release says 858 negative tests were completed on Saturday, bringing the total number of tests completed since the pandemic began to 88,514.
To date, Nova Scotia has reported 1,086 active cases of COVID-19 and considers 1,021 cases resolved.
There have been 65 deaths as a result of the virus in the province.
COVID-19 delayed opening of new YMCA in Halifax
The province’s health officials urge anyone currently experiencing a fever or cough to visit the 811 website to see if an assessment is needed.
In addition, if an individual is experiencing two or more of the following symptoms, they are also asked to see if an assessment is needed:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
The Atlantic travel bubble remains operational.
The bubble permits interprovincial travel between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador without self-isolation.
However, restrictions will be in place. You can learn what you need to do ahead of time for each province here.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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