11:00 AM Corona station - the doors to the LRT open and out pours over 200 Pharmacy students and faculty members clothed in white coats and winter jackets with smiles across their faces. Climbing the steps from Corona LRT station to ground level, the group meets with over 100 working pharmacists from all across Alberta.
The atmosphere is exciting. Everyone knows something like this had never been done before. But now more than ever this was needed. A bold statement had to be sent to the government that we aren't sitting back and taking the new budget quietly!
11:15 AM, the team is ready to leave, "Let's go!" yell the leaders as the masses of people walk across the street down Jasper Avenue with signs, white coats and a lot of energy and laughter! Cars honked down the drive at this never-before-seen sight, and pharmacists and students alike, waved back! Unity was evident in our profession with people from all across the province standing together.
On the megaphone Laura Coleman the MC of the event yelled out slogans as the mass of people walked down Jasper Ave and made their way south on 109 street. "Patient care first! Patient care first!" - everyone hollered out in response. What a spectacle. What an historic event.
Nothing could dampen the energy in this profession, not even a blistering snow storm, demonstrating the resilience and tenacity that is in pharmacists. Gathered at the base of the steps to the legislature with media and photographers dashing around trying to capture this demonstration for the public to see, the program began. Kit Poon stood on stage and began to rile the crowds with inspirational words, he said, "Never in the history of pharmacy have we seen pharmacists from all corners of Alberta come together to show this government that they cannot make unilateral cuts to our ability to care for patients without dialogue!"
The crowds erupted in cheers, spontaneously chanting "Patient Care First!" over and over. The mood was intense, hopeful and energized.
Next, Laura Coleman the APSA president took the stage and spoke from the perspective of students saying, "I'm proud of everyone for taking an active interest in our profession! We are asking the government to respect us as a profession! ... as pharmacy students we are concerned about our future!"
Indeed there has never been so much energy and activism from the student body as Pharmacy students stood alongside Pharmacists to fight for the future of the profession. Taking the stage after Laura was Aileen Jang, to speak about the cutbacks and its impact on patient care. Poignantly tying the two together Aileen said, "The cutbacks will affect the sustainability of pharmacy which will then jeopardize the care of all Albertans!" ending her speech with a powerful statement: "Help us help Albertans!"
Next up to offer some words was Liberal party MLA Dave Swan, criticizing the overly controlling nature of the government towards pharmacists and showing his support for our cause he finished by saying, "I applaud you for coming and showing just how much you care!" - stating that he had never seen a larger demonstration on these steps in his experience.
Jody Shkrobot Past-president of CPhA took the podium afterwards, to speak about Pharmacy being the solution not the problem. At one part of his stirring speech, Jody said, "We are solution providers! That is why Minister Horne needs to listen to this profession. We play a huge role in providing Albertans with high quality, affordable and accessible health care! ... We are not the source of [the government's] problems we are a solution for them!" To which the crowds began chanting in agreement, "Let's work together! Let's work together!" over and over with enthusiasm.
The final speaker for the event then took the podium Dr. John Bachynsky and with some wise words about the legacy of Pharmacy and patient care and his experience with the government over the years, offered this insight, "It's time we got together with government and pushed them to make a really good program that we can all support!"
Closing the event at 12:00 noon, Laura once again took the podium thanking all for attending and dismissed the demonstration with these words, "Let's push hard for our future and continue to work together to create bigger, better things for the profession of Pharmacy. This... we, together, here, is a win for Pharmacy today!"
What an amazing moment in the history of Pharmacy in Alberta! Never before have we seen pharmacists from all across the province and pharmacy students join forces together and stand as one profession to fight for a common future! Stores were closed for the day for pharmacists to attend. Classes were pushed earlier for students to attend. And despite the blustering wind and snow, nothing could dampen the spirits of those who were joining together to fight.
It is evident now that we are a profession that truly cares. Growing from grass roots we see unbelievable passion, unity and energy in our profession - more now than ever in history. Pharmacy must now rise up together and take our place as key and integral to the healthcare system. If we are united as a profession, we will achieve greater things for both our profession, and the welfare of our patients.
Article and Photography by Ken Soong
140+ Images from the event!
Special thanks to all for attending and helping with the event!
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