SAC–Norton clinic prepares to open clinic dispensary
The new SAC–Norton clinic dispensary is finished and awaiting a permit to operate by the Board of Pharmacy. In the photo above, pharmacist Nathan Painter, PharmD (right), gives a tour to fellow pharmacist Joycelyn Mallari, PharmD (center), and Jim Pinder, MBA, development director for Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy.
The application for a permit has been sent to the Board of Pharmacy. The dispensary has been renovated. Medications will soon arrive and fill the shelves.
Nathan Painter, PharmD, and Joycelyn Mallari, PharmD, both assistant professors of pharmacy practice in the Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy, are ready to add a clinic dispensary to the list of services they already provide Social Action Community Health System (SACHS) patients.
Drs. Painter and Mallari serve as the clinical pharmacists for SAC–Norton, located in San Bernardino, not only providing pharmacotherapy services, but training 20 pharmacy students each year who each rotate through the clinic for six weeks.
At SAC–Norton, the role of the pharmacist is more involved than at most local retail pharmacies, where pharmacists are primarily responsible for filling prescriptions and providing some counseling to patients.
“We work alongside the physicians as part of the health care team,” explains Dr. Painter. “I’m able to spend more time with the patients than the physicians can.”
The pharmacists at SACHS provide traditional services, such as the review of patients’ drug regimens for drug-drug, drug-food, and drug-herb interactions, as well as duplicate therapies, adverse effects, dose adjustments, and monitoring for kidney and liver damage due to medications.
In addition to prescription counseling, the pharmacists educate patients on the use of dosing equipment, such as blood glucose monitoring devices. Immunization delivery is another important service.
In some cases, Drs. Painter and Mallari work with patients on a long-term basis, providing them with monitoring of chronic illnesses—including ordering of laboratory work, and managing of medications.
“Most people don’t realize that pharmacists can prescribe medications under protocol with a physician,” Dr. Painter elaborates, “including those for such health conditions as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, and depression.”
Pharmacists who specialize in pain management can apply for and receive a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) license—the same one that allows physicians to write prescriptions.
“I could certainly make a lot more money in retail pharmacy,” Dr. Painter admits, “but I really enjoy the variety in my job here—teaching and mentoring students, working with patients, and organizing the dispensary.”
During a recent session with a patient, the topic of medications never came up. “My conversation with this patient was entirely about lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise,” he recalls.
Dr. Painter is currently working toward licensure as a board-certified advanced diabetes manager, a newly offered credential in the State of California.
SAC Health System currently includes three clinics—SAC –Norton, SAC–Arrowhead, and SAC–Frazee—all located in San Bernardino.
Nearly 12,000 individual patients are treated annually. Of that number, two thirds are medically uninsured and do not qualify for MediCal.
Each year, 3,000 visits are by patients from homeless families. Patients are 80 percent minorities, with 60 percent Hispanic. Women make up 64 percent and children account for 30 percent of the patients served.
Fifteen neighborhoods surrounding the three SAC Health System clinics are classified as medically underserved areas (MUAs), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In addition to pharmacotherapy services, the clinics offer care for acute and chronic illnesses; mental health services; dental care; physical, occupational, and speech therapy; prenatal care and other women’s services; immunizations; health promotion and preventive care; and specialized care for HIV/AIDS.
By Larry S. Kidder, MA