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B.C. pharmacies ask to be on priority list for personal protective equipment
VANCOUVER -- As the province works to keep supplies of personal protective equipment flowing to health care workers, B.C. pharmacists are also asking to be on the priority list.
Pharmacists have been deemed an essential service during the pandemic and across the province, pharmacies have been taking extra precautions to protect themselves and patients on the job.
At a Pharmasave on Howe Street in downtown Vancouver, pharmacy manger Mona Kwong said they have added plexiglass barriers and lines to indicate recommended physical distancing of two metres. They are also limiting the number of people who can enter the pharmacy at a time.
“We get exposed to a lot more people,” Kwong told CTV News Vancouver. “We’re frontline primary care, we’re out there.”
It’s why both the BC Pharmacy Association and its national counterpart have asked government to ensure pharmacies are also a priority when it comes to the allocation of personal protective equipment supplies such as masks and gloves.
Past President of the BC Pharmacy Association Chris Waller agrees. “I think pharmacies should be one of the priority areas after the hospitals are looked after because we interact an awful lot with people," he said.
The BC Centre for Disease Control has also said pharmacists and their staff who have direct contact with the public and are unable to maintain safe physical distance from patients and customers “must use appropriate personal protective equipment: surgical or procedural mask, eye protection, gloves. If the patient or customer also has respiratory problems, also wear a gown.” The Centre added safety equipment should be used in combination with frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.
CTV has requested information about protective equipment allocation from the province, but has not yet received a response.
“There’s been a few cases that I’ve heard of now where staff members in pharmacies have tested positive,” Waller said.
On March 28, London Drugs said a pharmacy staff member at one of its locations in downtown Vancouver at Granville and Georgia had tested positive for COVID-19. The person had last worked on March 18 and was asymptomatic at the time. The location was temporarily closed for deep cleaning.
Waller also owns the Lakeside Pharmacy in Kelowna. His store has barriers, curb-side pickup, and is offering counselling over the phone. He’s also telling his staff to take extra precautions after they leave for the day.
“Take their shoes off before going into their house, and leave them outside, change their clothes immediately when they get home, wash them, have a shower, put some new clothes on and then you can join your family,” he said.
Kwong said if people don’t feel comfortable coming in, most pharmacies offer deliveries. She added they can also arrange in advance to have someone else come and pick up an order for them. Kwong urged people to get in touch with them first, particularly if they’re sick.
“If one of us goes down, in a way, the concern is the pharmacy will go down in your neighbourhood. So with the resources right now, it’s so important for people to stay at home and just call us,” Kwong said.