By the end of 2024, there will be 103 Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy care clinics in Alberta, increasing the number of clinics by 44 in the province. The expansion represents a $77-million investment by the Canadian pharmacy retailer into the province.
Premier Smith said that the expansion will help alleviate the burden on the province's healthcare system.
"This is going to be one more way in which patients are going to be able to access care so that they have another door to enter into, as we continue to build out our nurse practitioner clinics as well as our team-based approach with family practice," she said.
According to Jeff Leger, President of Shoppers Drug Mart, the locations of these pharmacy care will be split between renovating existing pharmacies as well as the building of new pharmacies which will allow for a care clinic space.
"We have 25 new locations launching across the country. Nine of them are in Alberta. As the stores come on board, they'll be configured in this way to be able to provide those services. 103 is more than 50 per cent of our current Shoppers Drug Mart network in Alberta," he said.
When asked about whether the services in the pharmacy care clinics would be at an added cost to Albertans, Leger clarified that the vast majority of services that the clinics provide are paid for by the province.
"We're a private provider, but we're working within the system to deliver care that's paid by the province," Leger said.
However, in response to reporters' questions, Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange clarified that the announcement was not about the province funding pharmacy-led clinics.
"It's very complex, but we don't fund pharmacy-led clinics. We talk a lot about privately-led, publicly funded because pretty well every doctor out there who has their clinic has their own business; but it is all publicly funded. There's a lot of confusion out there and I would love to get out there and clear up this confusion."
Echoing, Premier Smith's sentiments, LaGrange said the expansion of the clinics would go towards alleviating the acute care system in the province.
"Anyone that can come to a clinic; would otherwise perhaps go to one of our hospitals and we know that they are strained at this point. It relieves pressure on our other family physicians as well."
The announcement comes several days after Paul Parks, President of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) sent out a stark warning, stating that the state of family and rural medicine was dire.
According to a report by the AMA, 20 per cent of family doctors said that their practices are unlikely to be financially viable beyond six months, while another 61 per cent of family physicians who were surveyed said that they were considering leaving Alberta’s healthcare system.
No specific dates were given when the new pharmacy-care clinics would begin being rolled out across the province.