We all know masks, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and other PPE (personal protective equipment) are in short supply, and that they are desperately needed in hospitals across America (and the world).
But we also know that many businesses have voluntarily made drastic changes to their daily operations during this unprecedented time and have pulled off Herculean efforts to continue providing services, while still minimizing human exposure.
That's great right?
It's wonderful to see people being resourceful and innovative and generous in times of need.
But why are businesses like restaurants, banks, and office-based companies all able to figure out ways to provide their services and get work done when life is no longer "business as usual", yet for some reason healthcare workers on the front lines in communities across America are being denied extremely SIMPLE and AVAILABLE means of protection?
That's right, we may not have PPE, but we have something even better!
Solid. Plexiglass. Windows.
The vast majority of today's pharmacies have drive thru and delivery options available, and in the face of a severe lack of PPE, compounded by exposure to hundreds of patients every day, pharmacy workers should be permitted to run their stores as drive-thru, delivery, and curbside only institutions, as a method of protecting both workers AND patients from transmission in either direction. And many of them are already doing so, if they run their own pharmacies.
The problem is, we've utterly destroyed independent pharmacy in America, so most pharmacists are forced to work for giant corporations, which do not allow them independence, often in spite of state laws forbidding interference in the professional judgement of a licensed pharmacist.
We are being told by our employers that we are "not front-line healthcare providers" and that "our risk stratification is low", in spite of this data drawn from Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported by the New York Times. See the image below for a visualization of our occupational hazard. We are there just next to nurses. Additionally, see OSHA's description of risk stratification, which would place community pharmacists squarely in the Medium Risk category (see page 20 for description of category, and page 21 for recommendations for that category).
The only thing left for us as pharmacists to do is appeal to the public. This is not my petition, but I implore you to please share and sign.
We as pharmacists WANT to stay open and care for our communities. But when we go down, there isn't anyone waiting in the wings to take our place. There are a limited number of people in any given community who are legally licensed and trained to safely perform a pharmacist's duties right now.
That means there is no one there to dispense life-saving medications to our communities when we fall ill.
-Blood pressure medicines
-Inhalers and nebulized medicines for asthma and COPD
-and many, many more, which all require a pharmacist to be safely dispensed. In the interest of keeping pharmacies OPEN to serve our communities as long as they need us, corporate pharmacy supervisors need to take up the mantle of true leadership and make the difficult decisions to make radical preparations that will impact workflows and make pharmacies "less convenient" in the short-term, in order to keep them OPEN in the long-term. So: again, I call on Leaders in Pharmacy: LEAD! They won't do it without outside pressure.
WE must create the pressure. Make pharmacies drive thru only during the corona crisis