Nfld. & Labrador

How pharmacies are changing to provide medications safely

Pharmacies are changing the way they schedule staff members so if one goes down, the entire place doesn't require isolation.

Changes to schedules reduce chance of several employees needing quarantine

Debbie Kelly is a pharmacy professor at Memorial University in St. John's. (CBC)

Essential workers — from grocery store clerks and mail carriers to nurses and doctors — are changing the way they work to save themselves from COVID-19.

In pharmacies, it's no different.

Pharmacists and technicians often work in tight confines behind counters, where there's little space to keep distance between themselves and customers.

"Knowing you're coming into contact with someone who is symptomatic, it is anxiety provoking," said Memorial University pharmacy professor Debbie Kelly. 

"These guys are under a lot of stress right now. They really are unsung heroes."

Kelly said the role of pharmacists in Newfoundland and Labrador has become more important since the pandemic began.

That's because the traditional bricks-and-mortar health-care facilities are operating differently due to the pandemic. For example, hospitals are restricted to emergency cases only and many physicians have switched to virtual care, offering appointments via the phone and or video, even if the office is still open.

Some pharmacies have installed plastic shields to protect pharmacy staff and patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Angelina King/CBC)

Pharmacies are encouraging people to make those inquiries by phone, as well as to renew prescriptions over the phone instead of making multiple trips in person.

Kelly said she knows of pharmacists who have taken matters into their own hands to ensure people get the medicine they need without putting themselves at risk.

"I heard a story of a pharmacist who actually went out and bought the Square [point of sale] device for their phone so they could personally deliver the prescriptions and take payment so that person didn't have to leave their home," she said.

Pharmacies are taking steps to improve the chances of keeping employees safe.

Learn more about this issue, and other stories, in our latest edition of Here & Now: 

That includes installing acrylic plastic barriers at counters and drawing lines on the floor, similar to other retail spaces. It also includes changes to scheduling so that the same pharmacist and technician always work together, and they change shifts with another pharmacist and technician.

That practice ensures that if one person contracts the virus, only one other person may need to isolate, and that the business can continue.

  • Debbie Kelly will be speaking with Here & Now on Friday evening about changes to the methadone program.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story implied all medical clinics have closed. Some are still open for patients to come to, while in many other cases, doctors have switched to appointments by phone or video.
    Apr 10, 2020 2:59 PM NT

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