Image courtesy of Katie Mispagel, S&S Drug
Image courtesy of Katie Mispagel, S&S Drug

Independent Pharmacies Continue To Serve Kansas Communities

As the battle against COVID-19 continues, independent pharmacies in Kansas continue to find ways to serve the patients in their communities.

Independent pharmacies – often the primary source of health care in rural Kansas communities – have begun finding ways to adapt to the ongoing challenges prevented by the coronavirus. Many have closed their entrances to prevent patients from entering but that has not stopped them from continuing to serve their communities.

Like many other independents, Scott City Health Mart in Scott City, Kan. has shifted to curbside, drive-thru, or delivery for their customers. However, they’ve taken these changes a step further.

According to owner/pharmacist Jonathan Brunswig, not only did they partner with a local print shop to create a sign in front of their building to alert customers of the changes and signify that they were still open, but they also added a new phone number so that patients can call or text that number to alert the pharmacy staff that they’ve arrived. The new number leaves the main phone line open for prescribers and patients to call in about orders.

They have also started compounding hand sanitizer and selling masks to customers in need.

Pharmacist and owner of Oakley Health Mart in Oakley, Kan., Kezia Uhrich, said that she herself has begun sewing masks for her staff so they can continue to come to work and abide by the proper face-covering precautions recommended by the CDC.

In Greensburg, Kan., Kiowa County Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Julie Keeton said they have taken their organization efforts to a new level in order to get prescriptions to their patients. “As prescriptions come in we are calling patients to schedule pickup and delivery times. We have also put up a giant whiteboard in the pharmacy so that every morning we can plan out the day as a staff.”

Keeton mentioned that all staff members who handle curbside pickup or delivery are wearing protective gloves and masks. They also wipe down surfaces in the pharmacy once per hour every day.

In Beloit, Kan., the staff at S&S Drug have started setting a one-hour timer throughout the day as a reminder for staff to wash their hands and sanitize the counters.

In further efforts to keep their staff protected, pharmacist Katie Mispagel said that the staff has now split into two shifts: morning and afternoon. Both shifts have one pharmacist, two pharmacy technicians, and a front-store clerk to keep operations moving.

Mispagel also noted that they are encouraging patients to use their free delivery service as much as possible. “Prior to this pandemic, we only had deliveries going out at certain times of day, but now our delivery service is available all day.”

S&S even set a new store record recently when delivery driver, Bea Sahlfeld, made 110 deliveries in one day.

“She sees it as a sort of challenge,” said Mispagel. “Each day she tries to top the number of deliveries she made the day before.”

It is these examples of service that illustrate the lengths that local independent pharmacies will go to in order to care for their patients. As the closest and most accessible source of health care for many communities across Kansas, they know their patients depend on it.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges in all facets of the health care industry, independent pharmacies appear more prepared than ever to overcome these challenges, adapt their services, and continue to serve in their pursuit of healthy Kansas communities.