Appreciating pharmacists during COVID-19

Updated on May 21, 2020 (Originally posted on May 15, 2020)

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Pharmacy Association heard from many pharmacy teams about the innovative solutions they have developed to keep serving patients. Pharmacy, like virtually every sector, has been tremendously affected by the pandemic.

From ensuring Canadians have adequate access to medications to serving as a front-line health-care resource for the public, pharmacists have stepped up to do their part in COVID-19.

Here at the BC Pharmacy Association, we developed these videos to show off the many positive contributions pharmacists are making right now for their communities.

George Cloete

Definitely feeling the pressure. We’re a busy pharmacy but the demand has almost doubled to tripled. Because we are open shorter hours now, everything goes from a 16 hour day to a 12 hour day. So the demand stays the same. You have to do all that work in a much more compressed time. Luckily, my team has absorbed the pressure a lot. One of the things we’re working very hard on is to manage the mental health of our staff, who are working long hours without a break.

Some staff are working 15 to 16 days in a row. For them to get home at 10 o’clock at night and be back at work at 6 in the morning, it’s tough for family. It’s tough for them. We work very hard in trying to make sure everybody has an avenue to look after their mental health, and we do check-ins as well.

What are pharmacies doing to ensure staff are protected while they work?

Everybody here has got a family and kids and spouses and are stressed not only about working, but about their health as well. We have sufficient masks now and gloves, hand sanitizer, wipes, all of that, so my staff can feel safe at their job.

What you see here is the combination of a lot of people working very hard to make this happen. It looks like it happened overnight, but this has been weeks ongoing.

How have pharmacies met the increased demand for medications during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Pharmacists are the only profession where you can walk in and see the pharmacist immediately. We explain to our customers that medication supply lines are shorted. We order 72 of something and get in two. So what we’re doing is we’re obviously restricting people for their quantities. This is appropriate for the current situation. We just want to make sure everybody gets enough medication to last them. We’re surely going to make it as comfortable for everybody as possible.

 

Christine Cheng

People need these medications. People need us to be here. But there are moments; sometimes when you have that patient that calls and says “I’ve been told to self-isolate,” but they need their meds, so we have to run it out to the curb for them. And we kind of look at each other, who wants to take this one?

These masks only give us so much protection. What if I am encountering someone who is asymptomatic and then I become an asymptomatic carrier and then I bring it home? I don’t know.

I think one thing we are doing that a lot of people are appreciative of, is we have implemented delivery service. This is something we had looked at but it’s expensive to get them out. It’s going out to you. We are absorbing that cost.

My kids are trained, you don’t touch mommy until she’s gone through the shower. And my husband says to me, “I don’t want you getting sick, you should consider resigning.” And I looked at him. Are you kidding me? No!

How has the pandemic affected the pharmacy’s patients?

We do have a really nice, understanding, group of patients. Everybody wants that three-month supply, but there are so many factors that go into the decision to encourage people to limit their supplies to 30 days at a time. A) We can’t always do it because we’re being limited on what we can order in from distributors. B) It’s also just that feeling of, let’s take care of the whole community. Let’s make sure everybody has the medications they need, not just one person for three months, but three people for at least a whole month.

How has the pandemic affected pharmacies financially?

It’s still a business. We rely a lot on the business on the other side of the counter to keep us going. Without the foot traffic, that goes. I have reduced my own hours because I know some of my staff need the paycheque more than me. It doesn’t matter. I’m still available. I don’t care I’m not getting paid, people need their meds. Especially because we do a lot of pain medication compounding, people need that stuff.

The staff have been great. We want to keep the team together so a lot of them have agreed to use their vacation time to go nowhere. If we don’t go to work, we’re not here, and you don’t get your meds. The idea is, we get through this together as a unit, and nobody has to lose their job. That’s our goal.

Christine Cheng is a member of the BC Pharmacy Association and a pharmacist at Cloverdale Pharmasave