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Filling the Gap During the Pandemic

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by Robin Trimingham

Your neighbourhood pharmacist has long been a trusted figure that people turned to for wellness advice. This role has intensified since the arrival of COVID-19, with pharmacists worldwide playing a key role in helping people stay well while they are social distancing – and also to minimize the spread of the pandemic.

Here in Bermuda, all pharmacists are committed to ensuring that access to health services remain readily available and that they can continue to safely interact directly with members of the community. In addition to following all Ministry of Health guidelines, pharmacies from Robertson’s in St. Georges, to Somerset Pharmacy in Mangrove Bay are also offering free delivery to encourage island residents to stay home and stay safe.

Your neighbourhood pharmacist has long been your trusted advisor on everything from sprained ankles, to blood sugar monitoring, constipation, headache remedies and vitamin supplements.  But now, like never before, your pharmacist is also your “go-to” expert for advice on wellness, social distancing, hygiene strategy, disease prevention, and infection control.

“At the moment, pharmacists are the only healthcare professionals that anyone can consult face-to-face without even making an appointment,” commented Siân Bowen, Chief Pharmacist for Phoenix Stores. “A lot of people have been putting off seeing the doctor due to the pandemic and we offer extended hours seven days a week to accommodate everyone.”

Even pharmacies in outlying parishes have noticed an increase in business over the last year. Once the lockdown started, Robertson’s in St. Georges began to see new shoppers who were suddenly working remotely from home and these customers have continued to visit the store.

In accordance with government guidelines, plexiglass has been installed in all pharmacy locations to protect both customers and staff, and pharmacists are rethinking their interactions with customers to limit touch points as much as possible.

“That said, customers are welcome to discuss their medications in person and our pharmacists are also happy to provide phone consultations for anyone who is elderly, or quarantining and can’t get out”, Ms. Bowen explained. “Thanks to the internet there are all sorts of COVID-19 wellness trends floating about, and we play an important role in helping to dispel myths and ensure that people get correct information”.

Bermuda pharmacies also offer a range of wellness services including blood pressure and weight monitoring at Clarendon, the Phoenix, Collector’s Hill, and Warwick locations; and many stores can also provide a free generic meter for diabetes management.

Given the high cost of medications, it is not surprising that many people are currently struggling to pay for their prescriptions and local pharmacies are supporting their customers with a variety of initiatives including seniors’ discounts.

Head Pharmacist at the Bermuda Diabetes Foundation Melissa Levy explains: “As a result of the pandemic quite a number of people are either under-insured, or un-insured and are finding it difficult to afford medication” she said. “We want people to know that our pharmacy is for everyone, not just those with diabetes.

Given that one of the best ways to reduce the cost of your medications is to take better care of yourself, we have introduced a number of new programs to improve and promote wellness of island residents.

Our ‘Know Your Diabetes’ program is a teaching breakfast workshop which focuses on self-care, meal planning, and starting the day with a healthy, safe breakfast as a means to promote wellness, and thereby reduce the incidence of complications which can be very expensive.”

The “Know Your Medications” program offers individuals the opportunity to make an appointment to have all of their medications reviewed by a pharmacist who will offer advice including the best time to take medications to improve effectiveness, help avoid side effects, as well as looking for possible adverse drug interactions. 

“As we are a charity, the Bermuda Diabetes Association also has a Client Assistance Program (CAP) to help individuals cover the cost of medications on a short-term basis, and recipients are selected as a result of an interview process,” she shared.

For more information regarding the location of your nearest pharmacy, their hours of operation, and the services that they are providing, please consult google maps.

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