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by Paul Morden

Do Ontario residents want to line up at a drug-dispensing machine to get their prescriptions filled?

Ontario Health Minister David Caplan thinks so. He’s getting legislation ready to allow drug-dispensing kiosks where patients would speak to a pharmacist appearing on a video screen.

The machines wouldn’t stock narcotics, according to the health ministry.

Sarnia pharmacist Ron Surman, at Hogan’s Pharmacy in Bayside Mall, isn’t so sure about the idea.

“Patient care is uppermost, at all times, in my mind,” he said.

Anything that might reduce the “interaction, trust and communication” between patients and health care providers “would be moving in the wrong direction,” he said.

Pharmacist Richard Kelch, from Northgate Pharmacy in Sarnia, said folks in his profession are generally in favour of increasing patients’ access to services.

But, he added, a recent survey didn’t turn up any evidence of a lack of access to pharmacists in Ontario.

“It’s a little unclear how this will actually improve access,” Kelch said.

Although, he said, “in really isolated or under-serviced areas this idea may be better than nothing at all.”

Kelch said his understanding is that the machine would hold a limited number of medications, and, “It doesn’t have the flexibility of a human pharmacy staff.”

It can’t do things like split tablets for patients or offer them a liquid dose alternative, Kelch said.

Also, he said, it would be hard to imagine a patient going back to one of the machines to ask follow up questions about their medication.

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