Doing business by ‘distance’
By Doug Lowe
During the height of the new coronavirus lockdown, pharmacies across the Gunnison and Sanpete valleys continued to operate, but made changes to protect both staff and clientele.
When most people hesitated to leave their homes and tried to postpone spending money, area pharmacies experienced a significant drop in activity and revenue at the very time they needed to spend extra money—sometimes a little, sometimes a lot—to respond safely to the pandemic.
Emilee Kuchenmeister, the managing pharmacist at Skyline Pharmacy in Mt. Pleasant, explained that despite having less activity and income, “We really wanted do the right thing to protect our patients and staff.”
At Skyline, and most other area pharmacies, part of that response was to install sheets of clear Plexiglas strategically placed to help shield patients and staff from exchanging anything other than prescriptions and over-the-counter products.
Kuchenmeister took an additional precautionary step that no other area pharmacy has duplicated: installing a patient walk-up window outside the building. In Mt. Pleasant, that little window is located close to the parking lot, set into one of the bigger windows that face the sidewalk along State Street.
It should be noted that two area pharmacies, Terrel’s in Mt. Pleasant and Fresh Market Pharmacy in Ephraim, have no need of a walk-up window because they have drive-thru services. In the future, Skyline Pharmacy may join them. Skyline’s owner, Dave Blackham, continues debating whether to install a drive-thru window and drawer he “purchased long ago.” Installation would destroy the popular mural, depicting an old-time drug store and soda fountain, painted on the wall above the parking lot; and, also eliminate many parking spaces to create the drive-thru lane.
When the lockdown began, two of the area’s dispensaries, Skyline Pharmacy and Gunnison Family Pharmacy, took the unusual step of closing their doors to the public. Both had independently reached the same conclusion: the safest option for patients to pick up their prescriptions was for a masked and gloved staff member to hand carry the packages out to patients as they waited in their cars. To make the service even safer, the handling of cash or credit cards could be avoided by making payment arrangements via telephone.
Before the pandemic, such “curb-side service” was rare at most pharmacies. Now it is everywhere. Shawn Sorensen, pharmacist at the Gunnison Market Pharmacy, recalls the old days when, “very rarely for only some special needs patients would we take their prescription outside to them in their car. Now, it is an everyday thing.”
Many area pharmacies, but not all of them, also offer free delivery to the home. Outstanding among those offering such free delivery is Gunnison Family Pharmacy and Floral, where the co-owner and head pharmacist, Court Hardy, proudly promises, “Free home delivery from Sigurd to Ephraim.”
Delivery by postal service is something almost any pharmacy offers. However, some may add postage costs to your prescription charges.
Perhaps, the change most common among all area pharmacies is the additional attention now given to cleaning and disinfecting. Mike McQuivey, pharmacist at the Manti IHC Clinic Pharmacy, describes operations there as “pretty much returned to normal; about as busy as usual.”
But, as he talks, McQuivey describes a “new normal,” one requiring curbside service, a Plexiglas shielding at the customer counter, and new social distancing signage, as well as “more cleaning and disinfecting than ever before—a whole lot more.”