Pharmacies push for expanded lockdown hours

Local pharmacy owners said the past week of operating with curbside services as mandated by the latest emergency orders has proven “tedious” and “difficult”, leading them to request more operating hours and days.

In his national address Sunday night, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association (BPA) – which consists of approximately 79 pharmacies and 250 members — raised issues regarding the services its members provide.

BPA President Shantia McBride said she is hopeful the association’s requests to the competent authority will have a favorable resolution.

“We have been in discussions with the prime minister’s office and also the minister of health and we have had positive response and back and forth communications. But they did indicate that due to the multi requests that we’re asking they just needed additional time,” she told Guardian Business yesterday.

The issues primarily revolve around the inconvenience for patients, patrons and pharmacists and associated personnel in being served outside.

“The curbside has [caused] challenges in reference to, first and foremost, the definition of curbside, which definitely needs to be understood. Curbside primarily deals with persons driving up and you going to service them there. However, that has been quite tedious for us in that due to social distancing we still are on limited staffing within the pharmacy,” McBride said.

“So, for the volume of patients that we usually serve, to have those persons only on curbside and coming outside, we always have to go out to them even to just get the information, then come back in. So it’s been tedious in terms of the back and forth of going to a person outside. And then you have to realize a lot of pharmacies are community pharmacies which means we have walk in patients, or walkup patients, so there is no vehicle to go to. Which means that you will still have that outside line.

“Also, we’re not just essential service, we’re healthcare (providers), so to be servicing someone’s medical needs at the outside has been quite difficult when it comes to consultation or patient confidentiality.

“It may be stated that they can call in, but if your volume is 100 patients or 60 patients a day to now have these persons between phoning in and also servicing persons outside with limited staffing due to social distancing within staff it’s been quite difficult.”

During the two-week lockdown, which began August 4, pharmacies are permitted to open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 7am and 5pm, which often leads to long lines and crowded gatherings on the outside of those facilities.

McBride said pharmacists believe by increasing operating days there would be less congestion on the outside of pharmacies and fewer patients seeking assistance within a constrained timeframe.

“Our request [is for] additional operating hours to provide accessibility to the public. So we requested Monday through Friday, 7 am to 5 pm , then Saturday 7am to 4pm,” she said.

“Our concern was to provide access other than those alternate days. We’ve found that patients are requesting more hours basically, to be able to get medical care for even OTC (over the counter) preparations. Everything right now isn’t just COVID based. There are other ailments that persons are dealing with. So to be closed on those alternate days we’re finding it a challenge for persons.”

Pharmacists are also requesting more options to serve the public than outside or curbside, including within their facilities.

“We requested additional pickup options. So beside curbside we requested delivery, we requested a takeout window – some facilities are willing to create windows for patients. Then we also requested to allow persons inside, persons that are only coming for care or OTC medications. So based on our square footage and providing for social distancing we are asking that we have that option to let persons come in for medical care, because we are essential…we are still healthcare.

“So to provide healthcare only curbside is a disadvantage to the patient. Patients should be allowed healthcare within a facility because consultation is private…do they want me to consult with other persons on the line? And how long will we be standing in the sun doing this?”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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