COVID-19 is enforcing everyone to shield at their safe zones away from the clutches of our invisible enemy, still, the community pharmacies continue to serve the society in this pandemic and deliver all the essential medicines and counselling to the local community centres and patients. With the pandemic the demands for medicines and other supplies are increasing at a significant rate, thereby putting immense pressure on the pharmacists. The pharmacies continue to serve humanity on the frontline in this pandemic spill meeting the rapidly changing demands.
Here we have few guidelines on how the pharmacies can operate ensuring the safety of the staff and patients.
# Social Distancing
All the pharmacies operating must ensure the current government guidelines advising all the individuals to maintain at least 2 meters of distance between them. Most vulnerable people who are above 70 years and those having certain diseases must adapt to strict and stringent social distancing. All the pharmacies must implement this for the patients and among them.
Here are some guidelines to implement and achieve social distancing :
- Making floor markings for people to stand to ensure 2-meter distance in the billing queue.
- You can even make markings to make people understand the procedure entering and waiting in the store.
- Place physical barriers such as chairs, tables, etc near the counter preventing the patients from getting close.
- You can even build a hatch for medicine storage and place acrylic glass barriers near the counter.
- Pharmacy teams can even use tape to mark the area on the ground guiding patients to stand in the store.
- Using barriers such as screens and retractable tape on counters to avoid pharmacist-patient contact.
- The stores can limit the number of patients inside at a time like one in one out.
# Reduce maximum possible interactions
- The pharmacies can reduce the interactions by encouraging patients to pay either through online mode or contact-less method by placing money in a box.
- There can be a shopping service where patients can order over call and collect it afterwards. This will reduce patient interaction and their time on the store premises.
# Communication With Patients
The pharmacies, unlike other services, are open all round in service of the patients. The main focus must be to spread awareness among the people.
There should be posters, signs, and banners outside the pharmacy doors, windows, or notice board for alerting the patients about the services they can provide. The information they can share may include:
- Directing patients to call and order rather than visiting the premises.
- A number of customers that are allowed at a time.
- Review the information and update it according to current guidelines.
- The guidelines and COVID-19 advice issued by the government.
- Directions for utilizing the pharmacy utilities.
# Ensure Safe Staffing
If the pharmacists are not available for work then the pharmacies must go for other methods.
- Update the locum list and speak to locum booking platforms.
- The patients can be referred to other pharmacies nearby if yours is not able to operate due to any issues.
- The local primary community leaders can help to manage the store closure.
- If a pharmacist leaves or falls ill, then medicines dispensed by him can be given to the patients but the stores must keep in contact with a remote pharmacist.
- In case the regular working staff is not able to continue, then train a different section staff for dispensing medicines.
- You can even hire the former staff after monitoring their health.
- The final year pharmacy students, with mutual consent, can be asked to join their work ahead of their joining date to deal with this pandemic.
# Social Media
If your pharmacy has a social media page they can be used to highlight the guidelines and share useful information for the customers. The information can be related to :
- Contact details of pharmacists and doctors.
- Information regarding who needs to self isolate
- Sick notes for those who are not able to work explaining ways to get online proof of absence from work due to COVID-19.
- Pharmacy opening and closing timings.
- Advising patients to manage their health during the quarantine.
# Staff Safety
It is the prime duty of the pharmacists to ensure the safety of the employees and they have to go above and beyond their duty and serve the people. The employees may have a risk as they have many patient-facing roles but the staff can adopt the measures which put them at minimum risk.
- The staff must be rotated in turns for the patient-facing tasks.
- They must develop other skills in different sections of pharmacy to help them if they are unable to work.
- All the employees who have chronic or other diseases are at high risk and must have very little or no contact with the patients.
- The measures must be discussed with the team to ensure understanding of duties.
- If any family member of the staff shows any symptoms then they should self-isolate for at least14 days.
# Sanitization and Staff Testing
Proper steps should be taken by the pharmacies to make sure the staff is safe and is provided with a safe working environment.
- Proper sanitization of the working premises must be done within every 2 days.
- Use detergent disinfectant to clean.
- Ensure regular wiping of high touch areas.
- Always use disposable items such as paper roll, cloth, mop head.
- The staff must be provided with home testing kits.
- The temperature of the employees must be checked regularly.
- There must be supplies of disinfectants and sanitizers in the premises.
# Proper Waste Management
The store must have adequate waste bins and ensure its proper disposal. A double bagging method for bins or disposable cleaning bags must be used. It must be separated from the other waste for at least 72 hours.
# Personal Protective Equipment
It should be mandatory for all the employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) along with gloves, masks, and aprons. These should be given to the workers and ordered by the pharmacists via wholesale.
# Electronic Prescriptions
The electronic prescription services must be used instead of printed ones. The GP must send prescriptions to the responsible pharmacy. This will minimize contact and reduce the risk.
#Opening and Closing Hours
There have been many reports that the pharmacies open early and close late at night after a tiring day without any break. They stay open throughout the week to ensure the proper supply of essentials.
However, the flexibility has now been given to them to close for some time provided the store’s must-have information on how to contact if urgent help is needed.
# Ensure proper stock
The stores must prioritize what their local community demands. The GPhC will help when a certain item is unavailable. You should limit the number of items sold. Maintain adequate stock of the medicines and contact the other community stores in case of urgency.
# Delivering Medicines
In case your pharmacy is providing delivery of medicines then the drivers must have the following:
- Protective equipment such as gloves, masks, sanitizers.
- Information about whether the patient is in a high-vulnerable group or not.
- Training for new drivers.
- Daily temperature checks of the drivers.
- They should deliver non-medical products such as soap and toilet rolls for vulnerable patients.
- Contact-less delivery.
With these few measures, the pharmacies can operate with its staff, workers, riders, and patients safe and away from any vulnerability and danger. All the pharmacies with Deliver Boss stick to these guidelines and give their employees and patients a safe environment.