The Association des pharmaciens des établissements de santé du Québec (APES) has sounded an alarm: it will be short about 400 pharmacists in Quebec health facilities! Why? But above all, where are they to be found?
A chronic problem
According to Linda Vaillant, director general of APES, out of 10,000 pharmacists in Quebec only 1,600 work in a health establishment (hospital, CHSLD, youth centre). This small number is explained by the fact that working in a health establishment requires a master’s degree in pharmacotherapy… leading to a lower income than in private practice. As a result, there are about 250 vacant positions in health facilities. In addition, 150 positions would be created in CHLSDs.
This shortage started in the 2000s and reached a peak in 2012. The situation has improved since, thanks partly to recruitment efforts, increase in the number of places at the master’s level and the granting of scholarships and bonuses. “But the situation is far from rosy,” notes Manon Lambert, director general and secretary of the Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec. Despite the possibility of a greater number of master’s students, there still needs to be registrants!”
Mrs. Vaillant, meanwhile, raises the problem of salary premiums which, constantly threatened with being abolished by the government, have a low power of attraction and retention of students and pharmacists.
According to APES, the solution must come from the government first. “They are the employer,” explains Mrs. Vaillant, “so it’s up to them to attract more students to the master’s degree. Ideally it would go from 70 candidates per year to 100.”
Mrs. Lambert, meanwhile, advocates more efficient use of existing staff. In this sense, she proposes favouring mixed teams (pharmacists with and without a master’s degree) in the CHSLDs. Another possibility would be to raise the level of pharmacy technical assistants, in order to free pharmacists from certain tasks. Of course, she also encourages developing programs designed to reduce unnecessary prescriptions, such as antipsychotics for elderly persons.
One last little thing …
Finally, Mrs. Lambert and Mrs. Vaillant have a strong desire for the government to promote the profession better. Indeed, despite the continuing shortage, the two women agree that being a pharmacist in a health facility is really a most interesting and stimulating career!