By Justin Seward
Bow Island Apple Drugs has maintained a steady pace with business so far through the COVID-19 pandemic.
However the biggest change the drug store is adapting to are the guidelines that have been handed down at the provincial and federal levels of only allowing a maximum of 30 days for a prescription fill because of the drug hoarding that occurred early on in the world health crisis.
“That’s been a big change for patients,” said Taria Gouw, owner of the store with husband Curtis.
“We’ve been explaining what’s happening. Everybody has been embracing it and been pretty good with that.”
She says the biggest change in scope for pharmacists is at the national level where they are allowed to prescribe controlled drugs and narcotics at this time.
“People who say are on fentanyl patches, morphine, sleeping pills, things for anxiety that normally a physician can only prescribe, they are allowing prescribing pharmacists to do right now,” she said.
“That prevents them from running out, having to see their doctor if we can help it and making sure the continuity of care is continued.”
She has maybe done half-a-dozen of those prescriptions in the last couple of weeks.
“(In terms of) percentage of population, we don’t have that many of that sort of thing,” she said.
The provincial government has given pharmacies extra income to assess (basic protocol symptoms) and provide ticketed information for COVID-19.
“We’re allowed to bill for five assessments per day,” she said.
Taria said they have had discussions with government officials that hopefully in the future when something happens like this again, the trigger can be pulled immediately on community pharmacies being the resource centre right away.
“It’s been business as usual,” said Taria.
“I think the biggest thing is just the cleaning, the excessive cleaning. We’re really mindful of everything that we touch and do and make sure we’re hand washing and different things like that. Lots of panicked patients though, so (we) really are having to deal with some mental issues, to calm people down, make sure they have a plan and reassure them that they’re going to get their meds when they need them.”
Prescription and retail items deliveries are still being made and payment methods can be made by credit card or by leaving cash or cheque in an envelope at the door.
“We’ve always provided delivery to the most vulnerable parts of our customer base,” said Curtis.
“We’ve just expanded it a little bit more than we’ve always have for those people that would like that service. All there is to do is request it and we do our best to accommodate them.”
The drug store has been working with FCSS on rural deliveries, depending on how far away those people are.
“Unfortunately one thing that has really impacted us is our customers in the southern part of the county,” he said.
“We provided through the doctors a delivery down to the clinic and Foremost Agencies on a daily basis down to Foremost. But because the clinic is closed and the Agencies are closed to foot traffic, we can’t make those accommodations anymore.
“We’ve tried our best to work with patients’ family members and community members. If they’re making a trip to Bow Island, instead of having 10 people drive up in a day, maybe make it one person a day.”
Curtis feels everybody is being conscious on the social distancing aspect of the pandemic, which he realizes is difficult from giving people.