Elsipogtog Pharmasave is a community pharmacy with a real difference – not only does it serve the community it’s in, it’s owned by the community it serves.
By Talbot Boggs
Photos by BangOn Photography
Elsipogtog is the first pharmacy in Canada that is fully owned by a First Nations Band and possibly in North America. The idea for the pharmacy began back in 2011 when the band’s board began to question why the community in northern New Brunswick didn’t have its own pharmacy, forcing residents to drive about 15 minutes to nearby communities outside the 17.72 sq. km. reserve. Many of these residents did not own cars so they had to pay someone to drive them.
The community had already been working on the idea of opening a grocery store/ market for quite a few years. Building finally began in September 2015 and the new Elsipogtog Commercial Centre was completed a year later.
“This was a unique opportunity,” says pharmacy manager Angela Sheasgreen. “They needed someone to come on board and start the business from the ground up. I was able to design and plan a pharmacy around a community from scratch. No one in the band had any experience in pharmacy, so they relied totally on the Pharmasave team of experts and me.”
The 4,400 sq. ft. pharmacy features a 1,056 sq. ft. dispensary, 880 sq. ft. of offices and back shop and a front shop of almost 2,500 sq. ft. The pharmacy works closely with the health clinic, which includes a wide range of services including family medicine, women’s health, sexual health, Pap tests, STI monitoring and contact tracing, foot care, prenatal, diabetes and a host of other clinics and walk-in services.
Unfortunately, Elsipogtog First Nation, like many other New Brunswick communities, has a high rate of addictions. The pharmacy was designed to offer specialized methadone treatment and dispensing services. It currently treats about 100 patients, who have a separate entrance for privacy, but has the capacity to expand well beyond that number.
Elsipogtog has all the services and equipment of a modern-day expanded-scope-of- practice pharmacy like compliance packaging, injections, basic compounding, smoking cessation counselling and therapies, in-depth diabetes counselling and monitoring, Naloxone prescribing and dispensing as well as the services of a certified geriatric pharmacist. Pharmacists also assess and prescribe for minor ailments such as seasonal allergies, acne, and urinary tract infections.
The front shop features much of what patients would find in any urban pharmacy such as a home healthcare section, mobility aids, vitamins, cosmetics, confectionery, snacks, women’s accessories like jewellery and purses, some giftware and utility bill payment at the front cash.
The pharmacy is outfitted with a Kroll workflow system with six terminals throughout the store, including one in the separate methadone dispensing room for managing the profiles of patients in that program. The pharmacy is built with a “lock and leave” concept allowing the front store to remain open even if the dispensary is not. Patients can call in their prescriptions over the telephone for filling, and Sheasgreen hopes to add a phone reminder and delivery service in the near future.
In the first three weeks of operation she watched as prescription volumes went from zero to 100 a day. The pharmacy manager is forecasting she’ll be doing more than 200 prescriptions a day within the first six months.
“The thing that really makes us unique is that we are a community pharmacy that is community-owned,” Sheasgreen says. “As a business we obviously want to make a profit, but we look at our population and see which programs are beneficial to the community, and we incorporate them into our daily routine. That’s the difference in being owned by the community.”
Opening date: October, 2016
Store size: 4,400 sq. ft.
Services: compliance packaging, injections, compounding, smoking cessation, diabetes, Naloxone prescribing and dispensing, geriatric counselling, telephone prescription filling.
Employees: 2 pharmacists, 2 full-time assistants, 6 front shop staff
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mon- Fri; 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sat, Sun.
Equipment: Kroll paperless workflow system with six in-store terminals