Pharmacies Answering up to 90,000 Questions Each Day on H1N1 Flu

Pharmacists Performing Triage Function to Help Manage Health System Resources

TORONTO, Nov. 16 /CNW/ - In communities across the province, Ontarians have been turning to their pharmacies for information and advice on how to prevent and manage H1N1 influenza. In many cases, pharmacists are performing a triage function, assisting patients in identifying symptom severity so decisions can be made regarding the type of care needed by each individual.

"We're estimating that pharmacists have been dealing with up to 90,000 patient questions and discussions every day," said Dean Miller, Chair of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association. "Reports from across the province are that most pharmacies are receiving an average of 30 requests a day for information and advice. We have 3,000 community pharmacies in Ontario, and they are doing a remarkable job of meeting this need during the H1N1 pandemic."

On October 28, pharmacist Tim Langford and his pharmacists at stores in Waterdown, Midland and Burlington tracked their time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and found that they had spent 50 per cent of their time answering patient questions regarding H1N1 flu. "We're getting a huge number of phone calls, people coming into the store, people who need advice on treating symptoms like fever, headaches, nausea and dehydration," said Langford. "We're also doing basic triage. We're helping patients understand the difference between influenza and a cold, so everybody who's sneezing doesn't worry that they have to rush to doctors' offices or hospital emergency rooms."

"Doctors' offices and hospitals are very busy as the number of people with the flu has risen," said Louise Tétreault, a pharmacist in Chelmsford, near Sudbury. "We can help relieve that pressure. And some patients have told us that there is sometimes a long wait to get a call back from Telehealth Ontario. But they can contact us right away, by phone or in person, to answer their questions and offer advice. It's something we have been doing for years, as front-line health professionals, to help patients, and to help the health care system work as efficiently as possible."

Donnie Edwards, a community pharmacist in Port Colborne, says his pharmacists are even helping people decide to get the H1N1 flu shot, as it becomes available. "There's a lot of information out there about the vaccine, and not all of it is accurate," said Edwards. "People are asking us what they should do. We tell them that the H1N1 inoculation is safe and effective, and it's the smart thing to do to protect themselves and their family. We tell them that everyone who works in our store is getting the shot. That usually helps them make up their mind."

Ontario's Community Pharmacies are dedicated to providing trusted one-on-one personal health care to our patients. Community pharmacies play an important and growing role as vital health care infrastructure province-wide - promoting public health objectives and ensuring reliable emergency preparedness in the case of an acute need, such as an infectious disease pandemic.

SOURCE ONTARIO'S COMMUNITY PHARMACIES

For further information: For further information: or to arrange an interview, please contact: Donnie Edwards, Community Pharmacist - Port Colborne (former Chair, Ontario Pharmacists' Association), Cell: (289) 241-6903; Louise Tétreault, Community Pharmacist - Sudbury, Pharmacy: (705) 855-2371, Cell: (705) 929-4929; Dean Miller, Chair, Ontario Pharmacists' Association, Office: (416) 490-2628

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