A group of Ontario pharmacy students started an initiative to help local front-line pharmacists and workers risking their own health in the fight against COVID-19. 

“Ontario pharmacists are facing many challenges with a massive influx of patients needing support during this pandemic,” Mayur Tailor, the founder of Pharm Against COVID-19, said.

Local pharmacies are open and doing the best they can to help the community, offering accessible care while doctors’ appointments are limited during the pandemic. But they are not receiving the same support from the Government that other front-line health care workers are getting, and need more personal protective equipment.

Pharm Against COVID-19 has been working with local businesses and organizations willing to donate high demand supplies like medical masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. They are trying to assist pharmacists and healthcare workers in unique positions to help people through this difficult time.

“Pharmacists are one of many front-line healthcare professionals who are providing essential services to our community. So we wanted to start something up to recognize their effort and recognize what all healthcare professionals are doing, and to assist them with the best of our ability,” Tailor said.

According to a recently published CBC article, Canadian pharmacists say they are struggling to fill gaps in a strained healthcare system, leaving them to deal with a lot of patients who are anxious to avoid medical clinics and the ER. 

“Our main goal is to educate the public on what the pharmacists can do to try to lower the burden on hospitals and healthcare systems,” Emil Diab, a member of the Ottawa outreach team, said.

“And we do know some legislation that is being changed to give pharmacists more power at this time to further help with this pandemic, so we are constantly telling the public what’s happening, what’s new, and what the pharmacy can currently do. Patients going into the hospital — they can just go into the pharmacy.” 

Collecting donations and keeping people updated on what pharmacists are able to provide in terms of healthcare isn’t the only thing on their agenda — Pharm Against COVID-19 have also been posting information as to what individuals can do to help pharmacists in particular. Pharmacies are encouraging people to make inquiries and renew prescriptions over the phone instead of making multiple trips in person.

“Try calling the pharmacy beforehand to pick up medications you possibly could have delivered to your home. So that way you don’t have to leave in case you have any potential symptoms,” Tailor said.

 

Many local pharmacies are independently owned and currently losing money trying to stay open during the pandemic. Like many essential businesses that remain open, they are incurring fees by taking additional measures — installing plexiglass barriers and spending money on disinfectant supplies where available in order to keep staff at work and protect them any way they can. 

Pharmacists are also being encouraged by the Government to limit patients to only a 30 day supply of a medication at a time to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

“We want to make sure that we are avoiding the stock-up of medications. So this is why many pharmacies are only giving a thirty-day supply to many of their patients. The reason for that is, by giving thirty days at a time, it can prevent a shortage from occurring,” Tailor said.

If you have to physically go into a pharmacy, the group recommends you avoid touching anything from products to furniture unnecessarily and follow the common-sense public health advice of frequent handwashing, coughing into your elbow and not touching your face. 

Pharm Against COVID-19 are focusing on how they can educate the general population as well. Their infographic Instagram posts @pharmCovid19 show the public how to keep pharmacists and the community safe while still utilizing pharmacy services. 

“I do have graphic design experience, so I thought that because I can’t go outside and take pictures right now, using designs and Photoshop to create a graphic image would be the best way to approach this rather than having long bodies of text or images that might not exactly fit what we’re trying to say,” Tailor said.

Across Ontario, there is an impending shortage of critical personal protective equipment, especially for pharmacists. Pharm Against COVID-19 are asking the community to donate unused and unopened items such as gloves, hairnets, masks and hand sanitizer to those who need it most. Contact them at pharmcovid19@gmail.com.