The OHA, Ministry need to do better for Pharmacy Technicians

The Ontario Hospital Association spends much time discussing its HR needs. However, when it comes to assisting existing Pharmacy Technicians to re-qualify for their jobs under the amended Regulated Health Professions Act, the OHA has been missing in action.

OPSEU met with the OHA in June to try and persuade them to take a consistent approach to helping these workers through the bridging program necessary to qualify them in time for the 2015 deadline.

The OHA has instead left it up to individual hospitals to decide on how they will assist their pharmacy technicians. That will likely mean well-resourced hospitals will be on solid ground by 2015, leaving others to scramble for qualified staff.

Existing pharmacy technicians will be required to take four courses, pass an extensive qualifying exam, and then take a jurisprudence exam. The process takes considerable time and can cost the individual thousands of dollars in course and exam fees. How much these fees are supported by hospitals varies dramatically, as do opportunities to sit for the classes and take the exams.

The Ontario College of Pharmacists will permit working pharmacy techs to forgo some of these courses through a prior learning assessment process. However, the techs will have to sit for a “challenge” exam to demonstrate their knowledge.

Bringing the pharmacy technicians under the act will bring more accountability to the profession, however, Ontario may eventually face shortages of qualified techs if there isn’t adequate support. For many experienced pharmacy techs, balancing work, family, and this re-qualifying process will be a challenge.

It shouldn’t come down to the luck of the draw – whether one is at a hospital with resources or without. The Ministry should work with the OHA and Healthforce Ontario to assist experienced pharmacy techs to come through this process as seamlessly as possible. It’s in everybody’s best interests to do so.

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