Anyone can walk up to a pharmacy counter, making me the most accessible health care worker to all patients. This has also unintentionally but unfortunately, put me at the highest risk for contracting the virus, writes Siphamandla Made.
You may not think of a pharmacist as an essential healthcare worker. This may be because you don't necessarily see us running around the emergency room at your local hospital, but these health care providers are more essential than you might think.
I have been "fortunate" to be working on the front lines. Ensuring patient safety while putting myself and unfortunately my family at risk every single day. In our current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, my workload has increased, and the whole healthcare system is pumping out way more volumes, with the same amount of staff it had before. People need their medication. And also, due to the lockdown, people now see us as an out, an opportunity be outside of confinement. Partial freedom.
People often now come to us first for treatment, as doctors no longer do physical examinations.
Every day is a risk. Every patient could be a carrier. The community healthcare centre where I serve, has deemed that doctors and nurses are the front lines. My risk is considered less, which has led me receiving the ordinary masks and not the required N95 masks. This is frustrating as we are constantly informed about the funding being there, but this has not translated to the equipment getting to us on the ground.
Anyone can walk up to a pharmacy counter, making me the most accessible health care worker to all patients. This has also unintentionally but unfortunately, put me at the highest risk for contracting the virus.
Our profession services patients in clinics to manage their chronic conditions to prevent an unnecessary ride to the Emergency Room. We assist in areas where primary care physicians are scarce and serve as a reliable resource for drug information. Pharmacists are also found in laboratories and academic institutions, partnering with medical facilities to produce the latest and greatest research studies while also educating future pharmacists and preparing them for the front lines of our ever-evolving world.
I know that the work that I do keeps the healthcare chain going. I am also responsible for keeping people alive and in our own little way, I am a champion.
My wish is that is we are recognised as professionals. That we are treated with as much respect as we deserve. That the people in charge of the health in South Africa, instead of lip service, uplift and recognise the work that we do.
We all have a place in the chain which is society. We are each fighting for the life of the patient. Let us respect each other, uplift each other. Let us teach each other. Let us value each other.
I am an essential healthcare worker. I am a provider. To all my fellow pharmacists who are unseen, unheard, and unnoticed: I see you, I hear you, and I appreciate you.
- Siphamandla is a pharmacist in KwaZulu-Natal.