What’s an emergency? Council approves new standards

September 4, 2019

Standards address defining “emergency” and the insertion and removal of instruments, fingers, or devices.

The first amendment addresses a definition for the term “emergency,” which is referred to multiple times in the Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians (SPPPT). Emergency is now defined as follows:

“Emergency means a circumstance where a patient urgently requires a professional service that includes a restricted activity for the purposes of preventing imminent mortality or morbidity.”

This amendment was proposed because regulated members have expressed uncertainty about how best to interpret the term within the SPPPT. By defining the term, it is ACP’s goal to provide greater clarity about what is an emergency, especially as it applies to Standards 11 (Complying with regulatory framework if prescribing) and 13 (Adhere to restrictions when prescribing in an emergency).

It is important for pharmacists to note that when prescribing in an emergency, the definition of emergency should be applied conjunctively with the standard. Not infrequently, pharmacists have provided emergency prescribing to a patient when the situation was not truly an emergency, but more likely continuation of therapy by providing a prescription refill.

Standard for limits on the insertion and removal of instruments, devices, or fingers beyond the anal verge or labia majora

Pharmacists have had the authority to perform this restricted activity since 2007 at the inception of the Pharmacists Profession Regulation (now the Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians Profession Regulation). However, since this was not observed as a “regular” role of pharmacists and only intended to be performed in exceptional circumstances, development of standards was not prioritized.

With the advent of Bill 21, and acute awareness to sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by health professionals, Council determined that it was in the interest of the public and the profession to establish a standard that clarifies the limitations of a pharmacist's role when inserting or removing instruments, devices, or fingers beyond the anal verge or beyond the labia majora.

What is expected of pharmacists

Pharmacists should review all amended and new standards mentioned above. In reviewing these, pharmacists should determine how or if they affect their own practices and what may need to change in their practice to ensure their compliance.

Prior to Council approving these standards, regulated members and other stakeholders were given the opportunity to provide feedback during a 60-day consultation period. During the consultation, ACP did receive several comments about patient consent. ACP has chosen to address consent in this standard in a similar fashion to how it has been addressed in all other standards. However, ACP will be developing a guidance document for pharmacy professionals that will outline key considerations in obtaining patient consent.

All new and amended standards can be viewed on the Standards of Practice page of the ACP website.

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