Hospital pharmacy cuts ill conceived

Daily Courier (Kelowna / Vernon)

On Jan. 6, the Health Employers Association of B.C. suddenly announced a unilateral 9-14 per cent wage rollback for B.C.'s hospital pharmacists. 

The rollback is certain to aggravate an ongoing staffing shortage in B.C.'s hospital pharmacies, putting all British Columbians at risk.
For years, hospitals across B.C. have been suffering critical recruitment and retention problems in their pharmacy departments. To address chronic shortages, a market wage adjustment to stem the flow of pharmacists away from B.C. hospitals was introduced in 2006.

Even with the incentive, most B.C. hospital pharmacies are still understaffed.

Ongoing vacancies remain unfilled for years. As a result, hospital pharmacists are overworked. Those who remain are still in the health system because of their dedication to patients and the passion for their profession.

More than 1,000 hospital pharmacists and their supporters have written to Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Mike de Jong, asking them to stop this dangerous move.

Hospital pharmacists do more than count pills and dispense drugs. They ensure the best possible clinical care and treatment of patients, including advising doctors on medications. They prepare chemotherapy drugs. They collaborate with other health professionals in educating and caring for patients.

Hospital pharmacists undergo extra training in order to perform the clinical duties required in a health-care setting. Five years of post-secondary education is basic, usually with residency experience. Many have six or more years of advanced university training.

Pharmacists ensure effective and safe treatment of patients: medication counselling, drug therapy monitoring, and diagnosing and resolving drug-related adverse effects are all part of the job. 
Hospital pharmacists also work to mitigate critical drug shortages and recalls. With the hospitals short-staffed, medication safety becomes a serious issue.

One or two serious patient incidents as a result of pharmacist understaffing are likely to cost the health system more money than the savings health employers want to see from a wage rollback.

Please help protect quality health care for your community hospital: add your voice at to send a letter to the premier and minister of health.

Reid W. Johnson, president,
Health Sciences Association of B.C.