Prescription refills are slowly going back to the normal amount, according to a Kelowna pharmacist. (File photo)

COVID-19: How Kelowna pharmacists are working around the pandemic

Like many health-care workers, pharmacists have had to make adjustments to how they deliver care

For the last couple of months, residents have had difficulty gaining access to their doctors to obtain or renew prescriptions due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As such, pharmacists have stepped up to provide health care support to those who need it.

Kelowna pharmacist Craig Tostenson said it has been challenging, but they were able to adapt to the situation quickly.

“At Glenmore Pharmasave, we’ve had to change the store around to make it safe for people if they wanted to come in and pick up their medication,” he said.

“We installed sneeze guards at all our points of contact with customers. We also put up signage letting people know if they weren’t feeling well, we could come up with alternate arrangements to deliver medication to them or they can come to the curbside so we can bring out the medication to them.”

Tostenson said delivering medication to people’s homes isn’t new to them but they’ve seen a significant increase in the last few months because of the pandemic.

He said another one of their adjustments was having direct communication with doctors to get the prescription straight from them so patients didn’t have to come in themselves to see a pharmacist.

“Our fax machine’s been working overtime. In some ways, this is more efficient. We can just concentrate on filling the orders and contacting the patients when we’re ready to. It gives us some time also because the number of prescriptions we’ve been filling has increased,” he said.

He added the increase is from suppliers’ worrying there will be a medication shortage due to the pandemic. As pharmacists were told they could only fill prescriptions for a month, people have had to order more frequently, which is why they’re filling out more prescriptions.

Tostenson said many people were worried about having to pay dispensing fees more frequently than usual but he said people need to understand is that insurance providers pay a portion of that fee, which means everyone isn’t expected to pay the entire fee themselves.

“Unfortunately, the amount of work that it takes to fill a prescription, whether for a month or three months, is about the same. A month is just a smaller quantity, but we still have to do the same procedures that we would do for three months.”

“In most cases, when someone is on a limited income, we’ll make concessions for them. Right now, we can still only give them a refill for one month, but we’ll make it so that you don’t get penalized with more dispensing fees. But waiving the fees, if we did that for everyone, we wouldn’t be able to keep doing this.”

He said now as things are slowly returning to normal, they’re increasing prescription refills again. But he thinks virtual doctor appointments and prescription refills will be here to stay.

“In a lot of cases, this way is more efficient. For minor things, if you can do it by phone or a Zoom call, that’s a really good option especially for those who really can’t get out. So hopefully, those things do stay.”

For more information on ordering medication refills virtually, visit Pharmasave’s site.

READ MORE: ‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: Kelowna woman worried over increased prescription dispensing fees

READ MORE: COVID-19: Skip doc, see pharmacist for renewals

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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