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July 13, 2017 -- Pharmacist Gill Montgomery was one of thousands of evacuees who were displaced because of the B.C. wildfires. On Tuesday, she left her community pharmacy in 100 Mile House for the safety of Kamloops. After arriving, she was ready to volunteer her services.
“I’m here,” Montgomery said on Wednesday. “I might as well help patients in need.”
Montgomery joined dozens of other community pharmacists in Kamloops who have volunteered their time to help people displaced by the wildfires raging in B.C.’s interior. More than 14,000 people in British Columbia were under evacuation orders. As of July 13, a total of 183 wildfires were burning. Twenty-two of those were highly visible or which pose a potential threat to public safety.
Community pharmacists stepped up after the province declared a state of emergency on July 7. Working together, pharmacists in Kamloops worked together to staff the evacuation centre on Thompson Rivers University’s campus. Pharmacists each volunteered for shifts helping answer patients’ questions about medications, emergency refills and over-the-counter medications.
“I wanted to help in any way I could,” said Pharmacist Marcie Decker, of Shoppers Drug Mart #0261 in Kamloops, who was the first to volunteer. “The way I could help [patients] is making sure they could get their medications.”
Many individuals were coming in who had leave in a such a hurry they left their diabetes supplies at home or they were running low on their medications, but there was no way to get in to see their doctor, whose office was closed. One evacuated patient said she was worried about getting her cancer treatment that was being shipped to her home.
“Anxiety was running high,” Decker said. “We wanted to let them know they don’t need to worry about their medications. That was last thing they needed to worry about. We can get it for them.”
Local pharmacies donated over-the-counter medications, sunscreens, EpiPens, glucose metres, diabetes test strips, sharps containers and wound care supplies. Many were filling emergency prescriptions, especially for inhalers.
Mike Huitema with Shoppers Drug Mart #0277 in Kamloops stepped up to volunteer after receiving a call from Kamloops pharmacist and Board member Julie Ford.
“That’s why we become pharmacists – to help people,” Huitema said. “It really goes back to what we are as a profession.”
Huitema normally fills 200 prescriptions on a busy day. On Tuesday, he filled nearly double that amount. He and his team were filling emergency prescriptions, looking up patients’ medical histories. Many requests came in for inhalers because the air quality was so poor. While Huitema and others worked long hours at both their pharmacies and at the evacuation centre, they wouldn’t know any other way to operate.
“We’re there to help people,” he said. “That’s why we go to school. That’s how we get enjoyment out of our jobs. That’s who we are as people to become professional pharmacists.”
July 12, 2017 -- On behalf of all pharmacists in British Columbia, the BC Pharmacy Association is concerned for the ongoing health, well-being and safety of all those affected by the wildfires. Last week, a provincial state of emergency was declared in response to the current wildfire situation.
Displaced residents who are running low or need help filling prescriptions can go to any community pharmacy in any town across British Columbia. Pharmacists there can access a patient’s PharmaNet profile, dispense emergency refills or provide an emergency medication without a patient needing to visit a doctor’s office, a clinic or hospital.
In this stage of crisis, many individuals may require pharmacy services to ensure their drug therapy is continued. Pharmacists from pharmacies across the province are on hand to help answer questions from patients about filling prescriptions, providing new medications and over-the-counter medication. Pharmacists will work with a patient’s insurance provider, as required, and PharmaNet to access a patient’s medication history.
Individuals who need emergency supplies are advised to bring as much information as they can, such as a piece of identification, or an old bottle of medication or an inhaler to the site. However, pharmacists can help any evacuated patient in need no matter what resources they provide.
To find the closest community pharmacy, individuals can use the “Find a Pharmacy” tool on the BC Pharmacy Association website.
The British Columbia Pharmacy Association is a not-for-profit, voluntary, professional association of pharmacists and pharmacies. It represents more than 3,100 pharmacists and nearly 900 pharmacies throughout BC.
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