Safety Measures for Community Pharmacy Staff During COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada
On March 11, 2020, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease of 2019) was declared a pandemic by world health organization (WHO) (1). In this situation it is particularly important that the pharmacy staff should remain well informed about their safety measures since they are recognized as the first point of contact with the health system for individuals with COVID-19 related health concerns (2). There are four main elements of safety measures which a pharmacy team member should consider while working in a community pharmacy during this pandemic: Proper hand wash, routine pharmacy cleaning, setting of pharmacy premises and workflow adjustments.
1)Hand wash (1)
- Wash hands often with soap and water at least for 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the case of non availability of soap and water.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or bend of arm.
- Dispose of any tissue in a lined waste basket after usage.
- Perform hand hygiene activities before donning, removal or disposing of PPE (personal protective equipment).
2) Cleaning and disinfecting pharmacy (3)
- Clean and disinfect pharmacy at least twice a day with broad-spectrum virucide labelled disinfectant.
- Disinfect all surfaces that are frequently touched e.g., counters, door handles, pin pads, touch screens, terminal phones, cash register, pens etc.
- Document the cleaning and disinfecting activities in a logbook.
3) How to prepare pharmacy premises (1) (3)
- Post signage on all entrances to pharmacy about self identification for all individuals who want to enter to the pharmacy. Do not allow customers to enter into the pharmacy in the case if they are having symptoms of COVID-19.
- Ensure to limit the number of individuals inside the pharmacy.
- Implement transparent physical barrier (acrylic, plastic sheeting, plexiglass) between dispensary and public area of pharmacy.
- Cleaning and disinfecting all medications upon arrival from distributors.
- Place hand hygiene solution at the pharmacy entrance.
- Cardon off areas (e.g., OTC aisle) using shelving or rope to redirect patients.
- Direct patients to approach the dispensary one at a time and maintenance of 2 meters distance between all individuals.
4)Workflow change options (3) (4)
- Spread out staff members by promoting them to work on different locations in pharmacy.
- Assign workstations, terminals, phones, pens and work areas to specific staff persons.
- Keep frequently used materials in labelled box for each staff person.
- Designate one person to answer phone calls.
- Consider only accepting debit/credit cards to avoid handling money.
- Do not pick up products from OTC aisle for customers, instead point them out.
- Consider establishing designated pharmacy hours to exclusively serve or book appointments for vulnerable patients.
- Cancel or delay any non-essential events such as clinic days, any professional services or activities (blood pressure monitoring, physical assessment & immunizations or other injections).
- Providing medicine delivery to all pharmacy patients.
- Acceptance of prescriptions by fax or verbal orders.
- Promote staff members to wear PPE (mask, gloves, gown etc.) during daily pharmacy practice activities.
- Application of 30-day supply rule of medication.
- Alberta College of Pharmacy (2020, March 24). COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) updates for pharmacy professionals. Retrieved from https://abpharmacy.ca/covid-19.
- Cadogan, C. A. & Hughes, C. M. (2020). On the frontline against COVID-19: Community pharmacists’ contribution during a public health crisis. Research in social and Administrative Pharmacy, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sapharm.2020.03.015.
- Canadian Pharmacists Association (2020, April 07). Protecting the front line: COVID-19 Day-to-Day Questions. Retrieved from https://www.pharmacists.ca/advocacy/covid-19-information-for-pharmacists/guidelines-for-protecting-the-front-line-covid-19-day-to-day-questions/.
- Stefanac, R. (2020, April 07). Experiment reveals need for better safety measures in pharmacies. Multidose packaging aids can shed virus in unexpected places in dispensary (Pharmacist News Professional). Canadian Healthcare Network. Retrieved from
Shabana Ali is a registered pharmacy technician in Calgary, Alberta. She did pharmacy technician diploma from Bow Valley College, Calgary. She worked as a registered pharmacy technician in a community pharmacy and excited now to pursue her career as an instructor in pharmacy program. She has an experience of teaching pharmacy/pharmacology subjects.