by Noreen Young
Mariem Eldihimy, BScPhm Rph CDE, is Manager of Almonte Remedy’s RX Pharmacy, located in Patrice’s Independent Grocery store. She and her staff are classified as “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this quarantine time, it’s comforting and reassuring for us to see Mariem and her staff, as well as other familiar faces, behind the counters of our local pharmacies in Almonte and Carleton Place.
Recently, The Millstone asked Mariem if she would agree to answer some questions we had about the current pharmaceutical situation during the COVID-19 quarantine. Mariem agreed.
Millstone: Since the COVID-19 quarantine began, what changes have you observed in your pharmaceutical department?
Mariem: As soon as the Pandemic was declared, people were worried about what services they would continue to receive and what might happen to the medication. We began to get a lot of phone calls and patients rushing in to get prescriptions filled. They were frightened that they would not get their next refill. Just as there was panic on bulk buying of household items, we saw a huge demand from patients trying to get extra stock of medications for themselves. The Canadian Pharmacist Association and the Ministry of Health implemented a 30-day supply for all patients. This was to help prevent people from stockpiling medications and to maintain some supply for everyone if drug shortages happened. We found that our patients were very understanding of this. They knew that by taking a smaller supply, someone in their community was not going to go without their medication.
Millstone: What precautions do you and your customers take to stay safe at work?
Mariem: As we are frontline healthcare workers, we follow protocols set out by Ministry and Pharmacy associations. We put up plexiglass at drop off and pick-up counters. We increased frequency of sanitation by using bleach or alcohol to wipe down surfaces after every prescription. We practice physical distancing and we have secured masks, gloves and hand sanitizers for our team. We are all very diligent in monitoring ourselves and customers to minimize the risk of transmission.
As well, the majority of our consultations are provided over the phone now and Pharmacy regulations have been updated to allow us to do more for our patients.
Millstone: Do you work closely with the local hospital and nursing homes and provincial Ministry of Health re medications?
Mariem: Yes, absolutely. We work with our local doctors, nurse practitioners and the Ministry of Health to ensure continuity of care for our patients and to make sure they continue to receive the appropriate medications. Our service is an extension of the care provided by the local doctors. We try to communicate within the circle of care for best patient care. Our goal is to keep patients healthy and out of hospitals through this tough time.
Millstone: Do you have any difficulty in maintaining drug supply lines for your pharmacy currently?
Mariem: Pharmacists have been dealing with various medication shortages for a couple of years now. Covid 19 has stressed the drug supply globally and we could be dealing with more shortages. But, the 30-day supply protocol helps reduce this. Also when faced with shortages, we use our specialized knowledge to provide options to doctors to continue treatment for their patients.
Millstone: Have you needed to hire extra help for your pharmacy lately?
Mariem: We have a great team here in our store. Currently we have enough pharmacy team members and don’t anticipate the need to hire right now even though we are doing extra work. We are doing things now that we normally did not do before. But then the pharmacy is all about flexibility and to get patients what they need to maintain their health. We are doing our best to get everyone the care they need.
Millstone: Do you provide tests for COVID-19?
Mariem: No. Pharmacies do not offer testing for COVID-19. The test is offered through the COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Almonte. We actively and passively screen patients and if we find someone who has any of the symptoms, we refer them to the public health unit and advise them to contact their family doctor or nurse practitioner as well.
Millstone: Do customers know the symptoms of COVID-19?
Mariem: Most patients are aware that the symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing. One of the pharmacist’s primary role is to educate patients. We post information in the store through posters and caution signs and we continue to discuss one-on-one cases with patients on how to protect themselves and others.
Millstone: Do you provide medication delivery and pick-up?
Mariem: Yes, we offer free delivery to patients and curbside pick-up. We know that for high-risk patients this service is essential to reduce their risk. We also want to help achieve the government’s mandate of keeping people safe at home in order to flatten the curve and reduce the number of new cases. Our delivery drivers are working extra hard to keep everyone at home.
Millstone: Do you have anything else you’d like to include in this article?
Mariem: We have a great community. People are kind and really care about their neighbours and friends. We want to thank everyone for their continued co-operation. We have seen some excellent examples of camaraderie from our customers. Neighbours helping each other and everyone stepping up to do the right thing. We will do our best to get you through this. We know staying home and not seeing friends can be challenging. Call us to discuss any concerns you have about your health. We will get through this together. We are here for you.
Millstone: Thank you very much, Mariem.
Who are your unsung heroes of the pandemic here in Mississippi Mills — the people who continue to work hard to make this extraordinary time easier for all of us? Please send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll honour the invaluable work they do.