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Don't panic: Pharmacies will likely remain open during COVID pandemic

Curtis Chafe from the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says his colleagues across the industry are planning to increase cleaning and stay open to help patients
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(stock photo)

The official declaration of the COVID 19 pandemic earlier this week has caused people to stock up on groceries and essentials.

But Nova Scotia pharmacists say there's no rush to get your pharmacy prescription filled, as they will likely remain open throughout the spread of the virus.

"There's a couple of retail operations that you can't really close. Your customers, your patients, they expect you to be operational," says Curtis Chafe, Chair of the Board of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.

A pharmacist himself, Chafe says his colleagues have already been preparing for about a month to mitigate the spread of the virus.

"When people get sick, where do they go? They come to you. So you have to be extra vigilant," he tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

Although pharmacies are typically clean places, they are being even more strict as sick customers come to pick up medications.

"Things that may not have got as much attention in the past are getting looked at multiple times throughout the day. It's places that people touch frequently, pin pads when you're paying for something, or the pharmacy counters or telephones and all those other things are getting a little bit more TLC now," Chafe adds.

Even in places like Italy, where COVID 19 has already hit hard, pharmacies have been in business throughout.

"There are only a few industries that had to stay open. One was grocery stores, the other one was pharmacies," Chafe explains.

Chafe says pharmacists across different retailers already have plans to help each other out and cover shifts if some staff need to self-quarantine.

"We're all just kind of working together to make sure that number one we're open, and we're available to help people out," he says.

Though pharmacies are in competition with each other, Chafe says that the ethics of being a medical professional win over at the height of a pandemic.

"First and foremost our pharmacists are regulated health professionals, and competition when it comes to looking after our patients, it has nothing to do with price or selling a product," he says. "It's about looking after the people that are coming to you."

Chafe says the 300 pharmacies across the province are the first line of defense, providing medication and advice to Nova Scotians. Over the past week, he's seen some customers who are worried about COVID 19, and others who are less concerned.

"It's gotten a bit better as the days have gone by, it seems that as more and more people are taking this pandemic more seriously, they're listening to media, they're reading things, they're understanding a little bit more," he says.

Pharmacies are working to ensure that people who are worried about their health have to spend less time in public.

"We're looking at delivery more often now so people don't necessarily have to come into the stores for your prescriptions," Chafe adds.

However, one thing the pharmacist can't predict is whether drug supply will be affected by the pandemic.

"It's no secret, most of the raw materials, the actual chemicals that get put into a capsule or pressed into a tablet, the two main markets are India and China," he says. " As of right now, we haven't heard anything about possible supply shortages due to lower manufacturing or transportation or something along those lines."

But Chafe says most pharmacists are at the end of the supply chain and don't become aware of drug shortages until it's too late.

"A lot of the times we don't realize there's a shortage until we try to order something and it doesn't come in," he explains.

But with colleagues across the industry working together towards a common goal, Chafe thinks the outlook is positive.

"We're all working towards one goal and that's to try to minimize any kind of fall out from any kind of infection that would happen," he says.

Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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