BONNYVILLE – Local pharmacies are doing what they can to assist residents with questions and screening for the coronavirus.
"If people want to talk to a pharmacist and have an assessment done they need to call in. Don’t come in if you think you have symptoms or you think you have coronavirus. We ask that you call, discuss with a pharmacist, and we’ll direct you further from there," explained Caitlin McGrath, store operator and pharmacy manager at Tellier Guardian Pharmacy.
She added, “We can't swab. That’s one of the most common misconceptions that people are asking."
The provincial government announced on March 19 that they created a new billing code for the service to support pharmacies in Alberta who are helping to assess residents for COVID-19.
After taking the Alberta Health Services (AHS) online screening himself, Davey Drug Mart pharmacist Carter Wagner said most of their inquiries have been to clarify the information people have received from the new tool.
“It’s just asking you a bunch of basic questions, and it will give you an answer to what you should do at the end. But, a lot of people ask questions about that, like what does it entail? We just expand on the information that’s provided, depending on what a person’s answers are.”
Pharmacists are currently limited to screening and providing information regarding coronavirus. However, Alberta Health and the Alberta Pharmacists' Association will be working together on how to expand the service if needed, which could include direct referral for testing and supporting Health Link 811.
“We need to maximize the capabilities of our health professionals at this time,” said Alberta's Minister of Health Tyler Shandro in a press release. “Pharmacists have knowledge and experience in infectious diseases such as influenza and in helping Albertans with their questions and concerns. This measure acknowledges pharmacists’ role in the health system and in supporting patients.”
The province has also suggested pharmacies help to manage the drug supply by providing a maximum of 30 days for prescription drugs.
“Usually, people can get three months at a time, and it’s more cost-effective to receive it three months at a time with most insurance plans,” McGrath noted. “Given the extenuating circumstances, the Alberta Pharmacists' Association is encouraging one-month dispensing at this time.”
Wagner added, “Lots of people are wanting to make sure that they will be able to receive or have their medications. Some people are attempting to stock up, which makes it a little bit difficult for us but we manage.”
The decision was made to ensure that supplies continue to be available, and those who need their prescriptions will be able to fill them.
“We don’t want to propel a national shortage if everyone was to stockpile a the same time, so we’re trying to make the most, and our drug supplies are fragile, so we want to make sure that we’re being conscientious of the community as a whole,” McGrath said. “That extends further than just our local community, it’s provincial. Making sure that we’re being more aware of the delicate situation and drug supply, and just providing one month at a time.”
Wagner stressed, “As long as we’re managing our inventory and being responsible, not giving everybody three months worth, there shouldn’t be any problem.”
Both Tellier’s Guardian Pharmacy and Davey Drug Mart are encouraging people to call in their prescriptions beforehand and are offering curbside pick-up and delivery.
“At the end of the day, a pharmacy is deemed an essential service so that’s why we don’t see a change in our hours as of yet,” McGrath stated. “We’re here for our patients, our staff is on-board, we’re putting in the sanitization methods and the proper protective equipment to make sure that staff is safe, but everyone is on-board in terms of our patients and customers are at the forefront and our community is our main focus. That’s what we’re here to do, to provide a service to our community in a time when they need it most.”