50/50 Sales Help Purchase Safer Medicine Cabinets

Published Wednesday, July 26, 2023

50/50 Sales Help Purchase Safer Medicine Cabinets

by Graham Strong

Medications at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) got a whole lot safer, thanks to your purchase of Thunder Bay 50/50 tickets. Proceeds from the draw helped install new automated medication dispensing cabinets in three outpatient clinics: Regional Cancer Care, Renal Care (dialysis), and Surgical Day Care.

These high-tech devices are not your grandparents’ medicine cabinets. They improve inventory tracking and planning, providing a safer, and more efficient way for nurses to get the medications they need for their patients, when they need it.

Most of all though, the automated cabinets improve safety for patients, staff, and the public, said Carina Desramaux, Pharmacy Manager at our Hospital.

“Medication safety with high alert drugs is always our greatest concern. With these new cabinets, we have greater insight and control over who receives those medications and when,” Desramaux said.

That safety comes in many forms. For example, with close to a thousand different medications available at any given moment at our Hospital, labels and names can be confusing. To complicate matters, the Hospital’s pharmacy sometimes changes suppliers or the medications themselves can go through name and/or label changes. The automated dispensing cabinets use a barcode system to eliminate all confusion. This system ensures the patient gets the right drug in the right dose.

It also means medications can’t be accessed without the right prescription and patient name.

“Controlled substances such as narcotics are very useful medications, but they can pose a considerable risk to our community when they’re used inappropriately,” Desramaux said. “So, we need to make sure we keep them as safe as possible. The automated dispensing units greatly reduce that risk – you can’t just open the cabinet. Only authorized access is allowed for the medication by prescription, and only for the amount prescribed.”

The system also helps ensure the right type of medicine is being used for the right treatment. For example, syphilis treatment requires a specific type of penicillin – a type that generally isn’t used for other treatments. The dispensing cabinet can be programmed to ask if the specific penicillin is only used for that one treatment. It can also prevent access to a previous medication such as an old blood thinner if the patient is already on a new one.

The networked cabinet system can also help with things such as inventory control including purchase planning and medication management to reduce waste from expired medications. If there is a medication shortage, the pharmacy can be alerted immediately. In these cases, staff can also identify which other cabinets in the Hospital have the medications they need if their dispensing cabinet is out.

“We have so much more data now to plan, making our pharmacy more efficient,” Desramaux said.

Installation of these units is the latest phase of a project that began years ago. Automated dispensing cabinets were first used on inpatient units to great success. Now, these three outpatient clinics will receive those same benefits.

Your Thunder Bay 50/50 tickets make an impact on local healthcare every month! That means when you buy a ticket, everyone wins. To date, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation has awarded over $24 million to winners across the province. Find out what this month’s jackpot is at and buy your tickets at thunderbay5050.ca


Jessica Munn, Automation Lead at TBRHSC, pictured with the new automated medication cabinet in the Renal Care Department.


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