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Providing services to Albertans displaced by disasters

May 5, 2023
Fires have already caused several evacuations in Alberta.

NOTE: A more recent version of this article exists with updated information for pharmacy teams.

Unseasonably warm, dry, and windy conditions across Alberta have created a high risk for wildfires. Evacuations have already taken place in several communities and there is potential for this activity to continue. This not only means that Albertans are displaced from their homes, but pharmacies and other essential services closing as well. As a result, many individuals may be seeking temporary pharmacy services from other Alberta pharmacies.

ACP understands that this may significantly increase your workload, and we appreciate all your efforts to help your colleagues and their patients during this difficult time.

As a reminder, when providing care for a temporarily displaced patient due to a natural disaster or other circumstances, please

  • Form a professional relationship with the patient and identify and assess their current health needs.
  • When assessing the patient, complete a best possible medication history and health history. This should include a review of Netcare.

Pharmacists have multiple tools at their disposal for providing care to patients:

  • Transfer prescriptions. Collaborate with the patient’s regular pharmacy and healthcare providers to transfer or obtain required prescriptions.
  • Prescribe or adapt prescriptions for the patient. In these circumstances, review the following standards of practice for direction:
    • Standard 12 of the Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians (SPPPT). Note that Standard 12.1 specifically provides direction on adapting an existing prescription when the pharmacist does not have the original prescription. This is likely to be the case for displaced patients when their regular pharmacy is closed.
    • Standard 13 of the SPPPT. This standard authorizes any pharmacist to prescribe at initial access when the patient urgently requires drug therapy to prevent imminent mortality or morbidity and it is not possible to see another health professional.
    • Standard 14 of the SPPPT. This standard provides direction for pharmacists with additional prescribing authorization to prescribe at initial access or manage ongoing therapy.
  • Provide virtual care if appropriate. If the patient is not able to attend the pharmacy in person, care may be provided virtually in accordance with the Standards of Practice for Virtual Care. Under these circumstances, regulated members must consider the limitations of the enabling technology used and determine what professional services they are able to provide.
  • As the duration of an evacuation order may be unknown, consider prescribing patients a reasonable amount of medication to ensure continuity of care until they are able to access their medication supply or follow up with their regular healthcare providers. This, of course, must be based on your assessment of the patient.
  • Collaborate with the patient’s healthcare providers as required and communicate any prescribing decisions as soon as possible. Remember to complete and share any necessary documentation.

While evacuations have been limited so far, there is potential for the wildfire situation in Alberta to worsen in the days and weeks ahead. Remember to look after yourself and those working with you whenever a natural disaster occurs. We recognize the burdens that these circumstances cause – the limited time you have to address all the issues you face, the challenges of looking after new patients with limited information, and the limits to your physical and emotional energy.