Pharmacists adapting to meet community needs

Hawke’s Bay pharmacists have tweaked their hours and changed the way they are working to ensure they can continue to serve the community during this challenging time. 

Pharmacists are doing what they can to keep services available and manage the massive demand, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Planning and Commissioning manager Di Vicary says. 

“Some are working longer hours so scripts can be processed with less staff because they’ve split their teams into shifts, some pharmacies are closing for lunch to give their staff a break and a pharmacist couple even split up their family bubble to keep everyone safe,” Ms Vicary says. 

Gees Pharmacy owners Chris and Leanne Marshall wanted to keep their staff as safe as possible while operating under Level 4 restrictions so they split their team into two shifts. As the couple are both pharmacists, it meant separating themselves into different bubbles. 

As the country went into lockdown, Mr Marshall moved out of the family home and into rented accommodation. 

“It was hard at times, but I was able to keep in touch with video calling and social media. I’m sure my wife had it harder having to run the household, although the kids really stepped up and helped with the cooking and cleaning,” Mr Marshall says. 

“It helped our family and our staff but it was really about what was best for our community,” Mr Marshall says. There were “smiles all round” when he returned home this week.

The team at Gees Pharmacy have also returned to their normal working week under level 3 – although customers are still restricted to one at a time to maintain social distancing.

It is important that people who are unwell, or have been swabbed for COVID-19 do not visit their local pharmacy. Pharmacies can deliver prescriptions to sick and vulnerable people.

Unichem Greenmeadows pharmacist Susie Farquhar says the COVID-19 DHB-funded delivery service has helped her team distribute medicine to her older customers.

“Our delivery drivers are unable to work at the moment because they’re all over 70, so the DHB service has really helped our small team out.”

Her team was working hard to dispense prescriptions as quickly as possible, but like most pharmacies working under the current restrictions, things were taking just a little longer.

“It’s a good idea for people to ring ahead and tell us when they’re coming in and we’ll do our best to have the prescription waiting for them when they get here.”

Mrs Farquhar says her team were delighted to let customers into the store one at a time under the level 3 restrictions.

“We’ve all missed the interaction with our customers so it’s nice to be able to see some familiar faces – albeit briefly,” she says.

All pharmacists have had to adapt to a new way of working, new systems such as e-prescriptions have been instrumental in keeping them operating, Flaxmere Pharmacy owner Tim Klingender says.

“It’s really important that we’ve been able to continue working in our community during this challenging time as a lot of people have ongoing health needs. We’ve been giving people health advice over the phone and processing more e-prescriptions.”

All pharmacists spoken to wanted to thank their customers for the kindness and patience shown to their frontline staff.

 “Although it’s inconvenient, people have been tolerant and accepting of the new way we’re working,” Mr Klingender says. 

Pharmacy opening hours may have changed so please check Our Health:

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