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November 30, 2015

Via email
The Honourable Terry Lake
Minister of Health
PO Box 9050, Stn. Prov. Govt.
Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2
RE: Eastside Pharmacy
Dear Minister Lake:
Vancouver's DTES has many dedicated health professionals, and for over 25 years,
Mr Alex Tam, a pharmacist has exemplified this dedication and professionalism to
the highest standard. Unfortunately we may be in danger of losing this
compassionate individual after a recent audit by Pharmacare. The consequences
for patients may be severe.
Professionally we have known Mr Tam as a caring, responsive individual who puts
patient care first. When we have difficult patient care challenges we invariably call
Alex Tam has won many awards; works mentoring student pharmacists, and
exemplifies what a dedicated pharmacist should be. He has become a trusted
When PharmaCare cracked down on unscrupulous methadone pharmacies who gave
(and continue to give) kickbacks to vulnerable addicted patients, we were grateful.
A consistently ethical alternative has been Alex Tam's Eastside Pharmacy. Mr Tam
collaborates closely with multiple care providers including physicians, nurses, social
workers, outreach workers and others to provide the best possible care for all 800
PharmaCare patients served by his team and, includes the 250 patients with HIV.
The population we care for is highly marginalized, suffering from multiple complex
illnesses simultaneously - mental illness, HIV, Hep C, borderline intellect, trauma
and complex addictions, compounded by social problems such as poverty and
homelessness. A disproportionate number are Aboriginal. Further the sad reality of
the DTES is that many patients with complex psychiatric needs have been banned
from other pharmacies that are unwilling to take on their behavioural challenges.
Eastside has been one pharmacy consistently able and willing to engage such
persons in care; stabilizing and improving their health.
Alex Tam has also managed to support patients who had AIDS to take their HIV
medication regimes and resume their lives. It will not be an exaggeration to state
that if Alex and Eastside Pharmacy are not permitted to continue providing what has
become an invaluable and essential service unique to our area, patients risk serious
health deterioration.

The Alex Tam we know works seven days per week. His pharmacy is neat and
clean. He doesn't wear a white lab coat because that is seen as a barrier; it
frightens some patients. His counter doesn't have a glass partition; that would be
another barrier. There are enough barriers on the DTES.
He personally delivers medication throughout the DTES for two hours every day
before opening his pharmacy. He reports back changes in health or when someone
missed their meds. This collaboration supports continuity of care; timely medical
intervention and prevents unnecessary hospitalization in many cases. Such a
collaborative model involves Alex providing pharmacy outreach services to many
patients too ill or palliative to travel even short distances to receive medication.
We strongly urge Pharmacare to have another look at the years of positive
contributions made as a result of Mr Tams dedicated and compassionate care. He is
a model of how a pharmacist should act with all patients. He and his staff establish
real relations with their patients. We have seen him go out on the streets to hunt
for a person who didn't show up for their daily dose of life saving medication. He
doesn't just serve from behind a counter - he genuinely cares.
We respectfully request that Pharmacare urgently consider an updated audit of this
pharmacy and work with Mr. Tam to define and implement appropriate processes to
address any outstanding concerns, thereby ensuring the maintenance of an
essential service for our many patients.
The closure of Eastside Pharmacy will have immediate, direct negative
consequences on many patients' lives. We all have patients whose lives have been
saved by Alex Tam. What will happen to them now? We dont want to find out the
answer to this question.

Dr. Glenn Bowlsby

Lead Physician at Vancouver Native Health Society Clinic
Clinical Assistant Professor, Dept of Family Practice, UBC Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Susan Burgess, Clinical Associate Professor
University of British Columbia in the Department of Family and Community Medicine
and the Department of Palliative Care Family physician at both Vancouver Native
Health Clinic and at the Downtown Community Health Clinic.
Dr. Liz Whynot, MD MHSc, CCFP
Vancouver Native Health Locum Physician (2010-present)
Adjunct Faculty member UBC School of Population and Public Health
Dr. David Tu, MD, CCFP.
Physician, Research Coordinator, & Education Coordinator, Vancouver Native Health

Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family Practice, University of British

Dr. Mabel Sze, CCFP, ABAM
Addiction Physician
Clinical Instructor, Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia,
Downtown Community Health Centre, Heartwood Centre for Women
Mount Saint Joseph Hospital
Dr. Karen Arnold, BSc, M.D., C.C.F.P., D.A.B.A.M.
Dr. Paul Gross, MDCM. CCFP
Physician, Spectrum Health and Vancouver Native Health Clinic
Member, Department of Family and Community Medicine, St. Paul's Hospital
Clinical Assistant Professor. Department of Family Practice, UBC
Dr. Helen Weiss, MD
Evanna Brennan, RN
Susan Giles, RN
Michele Pearce, RN VNH Medical Clinic
Barbara McKillip, NP
Dr. David Henderson, M.D.
Barb Eddy, MN NP(F) CHPCNC
Chair VCH NP Community of Practice
Adjunct UVIC, UBC Schools of Nursing
Associate Member UBC Department of Medicine, Division of Palliative Care
April Arsenault, RSW
Dr. Shelliza Mohammed
Family Physician, Vancouver Native Health Medical Clinic
Greta Pauls, BSc, BScN, RN, Hepatitis C Program, Vancouver Native Health Clinic
Nina Brown, RN