Think back to 2014. That’s when Loblaw Companies (Loblaws, President’s Choice) stunned the food industry with the purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart. Why the heck would a super market chain want to get into the pharmacy business? Well, as we all know now when we stroll the isles of Shoppers food is a natural fit as with pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. In fact, when we look back we realize that supermarkets had been on the edges of health convenience products in stocking products like toothpaste and aspirins in their stores for some time. Loblaws had just taken it to the next level by integrating convenience level food shopping with pharmaceuticals.
Loblaws has now decided to take a big step up the health services ladder. It’s made a multi-million-dollar purchase of Lifemark, a health services company. It operates holistic stand-alone health care clinics that provide physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic and mental health therapy along with a range of ancillary services. The plan is to create a national network of healthcare professionals who are connected to patients through Loblaw’s mobile app, PC Health — named after the retailer’s in-store brand, President’s Choice.
This just announced step shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, there may well be plans to take yet another step or two up the health services ladder. Yes, we do need doctors and nurses. However, the Canadian public health care system is doctor driven rather than being holistically health care focused. There is a long and convoluted history of how doctors and hospitals became the primary players in publicly funded Canadian health care. It evolved in an era when the health paradigm was all about caring for physically ill people with a delivery system dominated by doctors, nurses and hospitals supported by a profitable private sector pharmaceutical industry.
Contemporary society is now embracing a new paradigm that views health as holistic with a focus on physical, mental and emotional wellness. The politics of public health care funding with its ongoing tug of war between the federal and provincial governments has created a stalemate. Public health care is stuck with physician and hospital costs ballooning in a futile effort to restrict health care and cut costs. The horrendous COVID 19 fallout with so many deaths attributed to aging patients in hospitals and nursing homes has laid bare the deficiencies of the outdated public health care system. Every New Brunswicker is now experiencing the after effects of this deficiency with difficulties in access primary health care from doctors and hospitals.
The Loblaw purchase is an example of how the private sector is stepping into the public health care void coming to the rescue. There are 22 self-regulated health professions in New Brunswick. Chiropractors, masseurs, physiotherapists, prominent among these holistic health practitioners, are emerging are making their presence known. The Province of New Brunswick is increasing the number of nurse practitioner places in its university programs. Look for an innovative solution to the doctor shortage in New Brunswick communities with Loblaws taking the lead in setting up holistic heath care clinics.
John G. Kelly
Mentoring & Counselling