Service Spotlight on Pharmacy

Our Pharmacy department is rising to the challenge

Pharmacy Department
West Park's Pharmacy department

West Park's Pharmacy department had a host of challenges to contend with when hospitals were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic - from drug shortages to unique staffing accommodations. The department is comprised of Registered Pharmacists, Registered Pharmacy Technicians, and Clinical Registered Pharmacists, all of whom require specialized training and credentials to perform their important work.

When it became apparent that the department might be left short-staffed should one of the pharmacists contract the virus, the team worked quickly to get everyone trained on all areas of the department - using a specialized machine to package medicine or managing tuberculosis outpatient prescriptions, for example.

“We had to come up with contingency plans for when we were short-staffed, when we would have to support staff with kids, or if one of us got infected,” says Pearl Le, Clinical Pharmacist. “We all had to carry extra case loads and cross cover each other to accommodate training and sick time.”

Pharmacy employee preparing vials

Another challenge the department faced was trying to come up with medication treatments for COVID-19-postive patients at West Park.

“When the pandemic started, information on medications to treat the virus was constantly changing,” Le recalls. “It was quite stressful trying to find resources, make recommendations to our doctors, and find what little evidence was available to qualify those recommendations.”

Despite the added stresses and reduced social interaction facing the department,  West Park’s pharmacists and pharmacy technicians actually became stronger as a team. Before the pandemic, the pharmacy team would meet monthly for lunches to catch up, and often brought in food to share as a way to show appreciation. When physical distancing and limited contact outside of work became the new normal, they all came together to adapt to that as well.

“We didn’t want our team culture to change because of what was going on,” Le says. “We all really missed the social aspect of hanging out together, but we made a big effort to maintain our closeness. Instead of sharing food, now we’ll sometimes bring individually packaged treats for each other to continue showing our appreciation.”

Pharmacy staff member

Even as enhanced infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures required the department to change the way they did most things, staff members remained positive throughout, never wavering from what was most important: to deliver the best patient care possible.

“Despite the pandemic being so stressful, we all came together with a positive attitude, and no one had complaints,” Le says of her team. “No one ever refused to help out, and it was great to see how we all jumped in whenever we needed to. We all love our job, and we are all very fulfilled by what we do.”

The team also stresses the impact of their department leader, Gulzar Karmali, Manager, Pharmacy & Infection Prevention and Control, who they say is a huge contributor in keeping the department together. Whenever given the chance, West Park’s pharmacists are going out of their way to try to bring recognition to their dedicated leader, and credit Karmali for their strong teamwork and unbreakable spirit.

Together, the West Park Healthcare Centre Pharmacy department is excelling at providing exemplary care in difficult times, testament to their skill and dedication.