Home » Advocacy » Pharmacy Stood Up to the Crisis. It’s Time the Government Stood Up for Pharmacy.
Sherif Guorgui

Sherif Guorgui

co-CEO & Chief Strategy, Stakeholder and Government Relations Officer, OnPharm-United

As a Canadian, I feel very fortunate to be living in a country and a province that have the capacity and ability to offer financial support to Canadians impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and to help citizens afford to stay at home.

I ask the Federal and Provincial governments to extend similar measures of support for pharmacists and pharmacy teams who are working on the frontline in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Some governments like in the United States for instance, have introduced the HEROES Act which gives health care workers (including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians) a break from federal tax withholding for four months on income up to $150,000 annually, with income beyond that amount taxed at its regular rate. In England, the government has introduced a £300 million cash boost to community pharmacies, which while it would eventually get reconciled at a later date, it still affirms the importance of supporting pharmacies during this challenging time. In Scotland, community pharmacies will receive an initial £5.3 million in funding to support them during the pandemic. That funding is also in addition to a three-month advance payment. In Australia, the government is giving grants for up to $25,000 to support pharmacies in their crucial role serving their communities. Other countries are subsidizing the cost of increased home deliveries so that they are not born by pharmacy… and there are so many other examples to mention from around the world.

In Canada, like all of those other countries above, pharmacy did stand up to the crisis. It’s now time for the federal and provincial governments to stand up for pharmacy.

To that extent, starting with Ontario, I ask that, for the duration of this pandemic, the government implements a holiday on the cuts and reconciliation adjustments imposed on pharmacies since January 1, 2020. Earlier in the year, the government introduced policy changes and amendments to the Ontario Drug Benefit Act and its regulation (Ontario Regulation 201/96) which reduce the amount paid to pharmacies for claims submitted to the Ontario Drug Benefit program beginning January 1, 2020, and ending March 31, 2023.

In addition to the health and mental pressures on pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy staff from risking their lives every day on the frontline, pharmacies have been incurring significant costs to continue to operate during this pandemic. Those additional costs are putting a strain on pharmacies’ cash flow, especially small independent pharmacies. These costs include paying overtime for staff, paying higher wages, paying agency fees for locum or temporary staffing contracts, hiring additional delivery drivers, offering more deliveries at no charge to help Canadians stay at home, carrying higher inventory levels to meet the increased demand, making changes to their premises, installing protective counter screens, etc.

Pharmacies’ role in building healthier communities has never been more essential. Such support measure from the government would ease some of the financial burden to ensure the continued sustainability of the much-needed pharmacy services during this critical time. More importantly, it would be a tangible testament from the government to the unique value of pharmacists as the front line of defense in the ongoing fight against this challenging unprecedented public health crisis.

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