By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Pharmacists yesterday warned the Government that forcing them to offer curb-side services only could transform patient queues into "COVID-19 hot spots".
Shantia McBride, the Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association's (BPA) president, in a statement responding to Tribune Business inquiries, said the group “is in full support of The Bahamas government's strategies to decrease COVID-19 rates within the nation, specifically New Providence and Abaco".
Adding that the industry has a duty "to maintain the optimum health of our patients", she said: "Amidst COVID-19 we have made in-depth efforts to safeguard our patients' health by following the protocols set by the Ministry of Health - social distancing, wearing of masks, hand sanitizing upon entry.
"In addition, we have limited the amount of persons entering the store, provided tele-pharmacy, and enhanced our virtual patient services via online and social media portals to decrease exposure at pick-up and delivery sites.”
“We understand the need for additional measures at this time. However, we implore the Competent Authority [Prime Minister's Office] to recognise the difficulties and specialised logistics associated with curbside pharmacy service. We are a healthcare facility providing confidential medical essential services, not an optional public retail store," Ms McBride continued.
“The reduction of hours, Monday toFriday, up to 6pm, causes delays in efficiently filling the increased volume of prescriptions with limited staffing due to in-house social distancing protocols. Patient health and safety is compromised by having ‘sick’ patients, elderly included, line up in the elements - humidity, sun intensity, rain.
"And already-ill patients must stand waiting for service that may be delayed due to the length of the line and filling timelines. Curb-side pharmacy service lines are like a COVID-19 ‘hot spot’ as distancing guidelines are not readily adhered to on the outside, and patients tend to fatigue and are agitated upon their wait."
The Association chief added: “Pharmacy curb-side lines pose additional challenges due to the additional staff (security) needed to manage the social distancing lines; limited or no privacy for patient consults; and pharmacy logistics especially for NIB Drug plan patients, insurance and managing tele-pharmacy inside; increased frequency of patients having to return to the pharmacy site due to re-scheduled pick-ups or delays in filling at that time; and accessibility of patients needing cold and flu or over-the-counter consults.
"Pharmacists humbly serve the nation with every effort being extended to decrease the exposure rates of COVID-19 at pharmacy facilities whilst providing medication filling, consultation or over-the-counter recommendations.
"And we implore the Competent Authority to allow a limited amount of patients to enter the pharmacy at a given time to decrease the exposure risk to patients outside, allow for the patients to receive professional and proficient pharmacy service, and offer patients their privacy for consultation.”