Southern Ohio Pharmacies Struggle with Covid-19

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Local businesses across the country are doing their best to adapt to life during a pandemic. Covid-19 has brought numerous challenges to the day to day operations of any local business. On Friday, May 1, Ohio Governor Mike Dewine replaced Ohio’s Stay At Home order with the new, Stay Safe Ohio order. The new order includes plans to responsibly start the re-opening of many Ohio businesses.

But some businesses didn’t have the option to close down.  Hart Pharmacy, on Cincinnati’s West Side, has opened its doors to the community every day since 1960, even during the pandemic.

“People need a place where they can go and feel welcomed. Where they feel taken care of in this time. Where they feel that they aren’t just someone walking in the door,” said Aimee Hart, the store’s second generation owner.

Hart said the store is on its third generation of customers from many of the same families. She said her customers know that they are being taken care of during these times.

Hart said many of the pharmacy’s day to day operations have changed during the pandemic. The entire store is wiped down routinely and extra care has to be taken during deliveries. The store currently makes customers call in and charge their card before a delivery, so no money has to exchange hands.

The Aisle in Hart Pharmacy

The aisles in the store are all blocked and the only place to stand is in front.

But the pandemic has brought some unexpected business. “We’ve had a lot of transfers from the big box stores. They can only deliver once a week, while we can deliver every day and not make customers wait for medication,” Hart said.

Hart said the biggest challenge that’s out of her hands is stocking the store. “The minute the President mentioned  hydroxychloroquine wipes everybody wanted them. Well you can’t get them. A doctor has to order that for you. We still can’t even get masks,” Hart said.

Charity During Pandemic

Saint Vincent de Paul’s charitable pharmacy in Cincinnati is facing similar struggles. The charitable pharmacy has filled more than $65 million dollars worth of free medication since it opened in 2006.

“We serve the uninsured and underinsured who can’t afford their prescriptions. We serve Hamilton, Warren, Butler, and Clermont counties. All patients receive a one on one interview with a pharmacist every 6 months to go over their health. We are an outcomes-based pharmacy and strive to ensure the free medication we give out is what each patient needs,” Lydia Bailey said, Clinical Manager at the pharmacy.

Bailey said the pandemic has changed many aspects of the pharmacy’s day to day operations. The store would usually get around 2o new patients a month, but with all the layoffs she’s seen nearly 160 new patients in March and April.

“We filled a record number of prescriptions as well. The need is hard to keep up with some days, especially since we reduced all volunteer activity in the pharmacy. But our staff is truly incredible and has risen to this challenge with extreme grace,” Bailey said.

Bailey and her staff have filled over 20,000 prescriptions during the pandemic.

As with Hart Pharmacy, Bailey described one of their biggest issues is keeping stocked. But she credits their wholesale and international partners for keeping them stocked, as well as what she calls divine intervention.

Sign saying “Pharmacy still open”

“Access to medication can change a person’s entire life. Every week a patient tells me that without this program they would be dead. The fear of choosing between affording food or medicine is more common than you think. Everyone is just one health crisis away from being unable to afford medicine. Over 66% of hospital re-admissions are due to non adherence to medication,” Bailey said.

Bailey thinks the hardest part of transitioning to life after the pandemic will be overcoming the fear of contact with those whom they serve. “Offering a hug, holding hands in prayer, checking blood sugars and blood pressures, are all day to day tasks for my team. I don’t want us to compromise on the importance of neighboring because of the lingering effects of social distancing,” Bailey said.

Bailey said they are in full support of those making difficult decisions on behalf of the city and state.

The Rest of Ohio’s businesses

Governor DeWine’s Stay Safe Ohio Order, signed April 30, set the parameters for other businesses in the state to re-open or remain open. The order has eight general points for businesses to follow and continues to enforce social distancing for employees and customers. The order asks businesses to perform daily health assessments on employees and to consider wearing masks at all times. Pharmacies are not specifically mentioned in the order.