The biggest impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on pharmacy is “wholesalers being out of [the] essentials”, explains Managing Pharmacist of Coonabarabran Chemist in NSW, Chloe Kay.
“Having to say no and having empty shelves day in day out is getting frustrating. And it’s not just toilet paper – it’s hand sanitiser; all brands and forms of disinfecting products (from soap to wipes to liquids); all types and brands of paracetamol (liquids and tablets).
“We’ve had to buy 1000 bottles of Panamax, and separate and bottle [it] into 100 tablets to keep being able to provide basic analgesics to our customers.”
While initially their customers “were more relaxed and not worried” about potential shortages, things changed – panic buying started – at the country pharmacy after the media hype.
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“The day after it was on the news, Ventolin and Asmol puffers were [sold out as] we had markedly more people wanting puffers – most of them with no current symptoms, they just wanted it ‘in case’. Same with liquid Panadol.”
While people are worried, scared and anxious, Ms Kay echoes the sentiments of other pharmacists at the frontline of this pandemic: “Everyone’s health matters. If we all just get what we need – what we would usually buy – then there will be enough to go around.”
As the country begins the stages of lockdown, pharmacists and pharmacy staff are required to get innovative with how they implement social distancing measures.
“We have put electrical tape on the ground to encourage people to stand back from the counter, and the next person is to wait 1.5 metres behind them (behind the lines).
“Having markers there [seems to] be enough to remind people and, so far, it has been pretty successful.”
Being exposed to others on a daily basis, taking preventative measure to stay healthy, is also one of the things Ms Kay is adhering to, to minimise her risk of infection.
“I have been taking KI Immune Defence every day, a double strength probiotic and CoQ10 for energy.
“Plus, of course, I bring a wholesome lunch to work, and snacks to keep me going.
“I have also been increasing fluids and exercising every morning – starting the day right puts me in the right mind frame to tackle the even-busier-than-usual days.
“The other thing I read from nurses who are potentially exposed all day is to shower the minute I walk in the door at the end of the day, and to wash my uniforms right away.”
As a workplace, Ms Kay says they are “cleaning more than ever – both the pharmacy and our hands”. “As well as generally taking more care of ourselves to ensure we don’t get sick. We are only human – all this pressure has definitely increased the caffeine consumption in our shop [too]!”
Ms Kay explains that as a country pharmacy, in a small town (“population 2000”), the community is banding together to “keep the cases of coronavirus at zero”, particularly given that it’s an “older community”.
“The extent [to which] everyone is going to – increasing hygiene and socially isolating to protect the elderly – has been wonderful to see,” she ends.