To reduce exposure and transmission of the coronavirus, community pharmacies are committed to enforcing strict safety measures that will allow them to continue providing critical medicine, information, and immunizations to their patients.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in a resolute manner — not that you would expect anything less from professionals already well-accustomed to pressure — pharmacies throughout the country have successfully strived to remain open to the public while ensuring that their patients and staff are safe.
Andrew Gyorda, a community pharmacist with nearly three decades of experience and the operator of Hollis Pharmacy in New Hampshire, outlines the careful steps that pharmacies have implemented to thwart the spread of COVID-19.
Social Distancing Parameters
For months, we have witnessed the social distancing guidelines upon entering buildings, at the check-out lines, and in encounters with a store’s staff. Pharmacies, respectful of and in tune with government mandates, are adapting practices in order to keep a two-meter distance between patients, paying particular attention to the elderly and those who have an underlying health condition.
Although there is no specific decree for pharmacies to follow in their social distancing set-up, various enterprises, in addition to limiting the number of visitors allowed in at once, have taken initiative by positioning physical barriers in doorways or at the front of a counter to block patients from close contact with staff and one another. Hollis Pharmacy has reconfigured store shelving to redirect patient traffic flow in order to maximize physical distancing. Many pharmacies have been applying markers on the ground to designate areas that patients can stand when in line to cash out, and have installed acrylic glass barriers or hatches before the counter to permit the exchange medicine and payment with minimal contact.
While some view these efforts as excessive and uncalled for, deeming them dramatic, Mr. Gyorda notes that pharmacies shall continue to integrate such measures for the overall safety of employees and patients.
Preserving A Safe Environment for Staff
Pharmacies are also prioritizing the wellness of their staff members, understanding their concerns in occupying a role that requires face-to-face meetings with patients and puts them at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, notes Andrew.
They are achieving this through advising the staff on behaviors that they can embrace which are understood to reduce viral transmission, allowing them ample time to wash their hands and to sanitize the facility, and assuring them that they will not be overworked to the point where they could be careless.
Some of their actions in promoting staff safety include assigning work that does not involve direct patient interaction and keeping those employees who are at a higher risk (for instance, anyone with chronic respiratory conditions or diabetes) from having significant contact with a patient.
Good hygiene and infection control measures such as thorough handwashing and the laundering of uniforms are also being carried out with greater frequency. Cleaning the pharmacy regularly is imperative, and establishments such as his have been devoted to this effort, concentrating on areas that are particularly exposed to many hands such as countertops, pens, and door handles, and, in some instances, hiring cleaning companies for assistance.
A few of the basic cleansing steps that pharmacies are practicing include: the use of disposable disinfecting cloths, paper towels and mop heads, washing and sanitizing all hard surfaces, floors, chairs and door handles utilizing detergent disinfectants, and frequently wiping down areas that are touched on a consistent basis (light switches, refrigerator doors, sink handles and soap dispensers).
Their waste management methodologies have also been enhanced. The majority of pharmacies have sufficient waste bins, and now use multiple bags for disposing of used tissues and or cleaning materials and remove it from the pharmacy twice daily.
Andrew Gyorda on Constant Communication
Seeking to avoid unnecessary visits, pharmacies are employing a dedicated approach that clarifies their current functions, Mr. Gyorda states. Posters, banners, or signs, preferably on the front door where consumers can read them prior to entry, have been utilized to outstanding effect, informing patients about the services currently available.
What’s more, pharmacies are also sharing the latest COVID-19 advice from the government, policies regarding uncooperative customers, directions for using the pharmacy, and instructions on how they can reach the establishment via a telephone call to receive information and services.
A number of pharmacies, including Hollis Pharmacy, have utilized their social media pages for similar purposes, highlighting crucial information, such as: suitable times for individuals to visit the pharmacy, expert advice on how patients can effectively manage their health through isolation periods, guidance for those who are incapable of working because of COVID-19 symptoms, whom to contact if worried about symptoms, and specifics on the patient groups that must self-isolate for a duration of 14 days.