In a pandemic such as COVID-19, what role can and must the pharmacist play?
From the neighbourhood pharmacy to the hospital, pharmacists are everywhere in the Quebec and Canadian health care systems. In normal times, their role is crucial for the population, both to reassure them and to guide them in the use of different drugs. That said, what about a pandemic like COVID-19? “In such a situation, it is important that pharmacists help to flatten the curve of the spread of the disease, to avoid new cases overloading the health system,” says Alexandre Chagnon, hospital pharmacist and founder of the online service Question pour un pharmacien.
A curve to be flattened
To prevent the spread of a virus such as the novel coronavirus overloading the health system, Alexandre Chagnon urges pharmacists to remind their colleagues and clients to wash their hands frequently and to stay home when they are sick. “Pharmacists can also reduce the risk of death from this virus by asking people to avoid visiting relatives and friends, especially those with poor health (cancer, lung problems, cardiovascular disease, etc.).”
By doing this, pharmacists participate in their own way in the various government measures put in place to curb the pandemic, such as closing borders and schools, cancelling sporting and cultural events, teleworking, social distancing and quarantine.
Behaviours to adopt
In addition to reminding and applying basic hygiene measures (hand washing, washing work surfaces, etc.), Alexandre Chagnon encourages community pharmacists to carry out a greater share of their activities remotely, whether over the internet or by phone. “When advising their patients, answering questions or delivering medication, pharmacists benefit from reducing contact between work teams, deliverers and patients.”
Another behaviour to be adopted, he said, is to keep up to date on the pandemic, the number of confirmed cases and deaths, government actions, the information tools of the College of Pharmacists in each province, and the ongoing work on the development of a vaccine against the disease. “The situation is changing rapidly. By being well informed about the pandemic, pharmacists can better answer people’s questions and comfort them better.”