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Avoiding Italy scenario

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ADVICE Westport pharmacist Michael McVann.

Pharmacist Micheál McVann gives practical advice to people and explains how they ought to engage with their local pharmacist

Westport-based pharmacist Micheál McVann has encountered a great deal in almost 20 years experience in the field in Ireland and abroad.
However, the Claremorris native who owns McVann’s Careplus pharmacy on Shop Street in Westport says the events of the last week with the Covid-19 virus are ‘unprecedented’ in all his time as a front-line medical professional.
“It started earlier in the week. Monday and Tuesday saw an increased demand for hand sanitisers from the general public. Even though we had put a limit of two products per person we had run out by Tuesday evening. As the week progressed we saw a lot of our regular patients coming into the shop to fill their prescriptions earlier than would be necessary. Thursday and Friday were our busiest days with people buying medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen,”said Micheál.
He explained one of the key roles this past week was to reassure his patients and allay their fears, anxieties and uncertainties. He stresses too how important it is that people do not stockpile medicines.
“We have been assured by the IPU (Irish Pharmaceutical Union) and the PSI (Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland) that the supply chains are completely open and will continue to be. In fact, people stockpiling medicine is what disrupts the supply chain,” he said.
Stockpiling would, he added, have a particularly detrimental effect on the most vulnerable patients – those who pre-existing conditions and the elderly.
He stressed that people follow advice, but from correct sources, such as the HSE and the World Health Organisation (WHO) who have clear guidance.

Hand hygiene and social distancing
In terms of what each person can do, Micheál emphasised the importance of hand hygiene and social distancing.
“I understand people want to use hand sanitisers but in the event of their lack of availability washing your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds is just as effective if not more so.  Correct hand hygiene is essential in preventing the infection spreading.
“Social distancing is another aspect of prevention and one which has shown the most effect in slowing down the rate of infection. This in turn will have a significant impact on the level of pressure on which our health system will come under in the weeks ahead. By using these very important protective measures this will help to keep the health system working at an optimum level and avoid a spike in cases,” he said.
He explained the practicalities of social distancing in their store.
“We are taking all these protective measures now to avoid what is happening in Italy. Social distancing is an area where people can really make a difference, particularly in the pharmacy. We would advise people to ring in advance so that we can have their prescription ready for them. This minimizes the amount of face to face contact people have with each other and the wait time in one particular area. This is also important in your interactions with pharmacy staff, distancing yourself from the staff by up to two metres (6.5 feet). This may seem unusual but it is vital if we are to conduct social distancing in the correct manner. This also means that one to one interactions that usually occur in the pharmacy such as blood pressure and cholesterol testing will be minimized during this period. These interventions may mean that your visit to the pharmacy will not seem as it usually does, but this is to protect the patients’ health and the health of the pharmacy staff enabling them to continue their important work in keeping people well.
“Other aspects of personal hygiene which have been proven to stop the spread of the infection are well documented, including covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze, putting used tissues into a bin and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces,” Micheál advises.
Micheál McVann adds that he and his staff will continue to support those who are in need of help and support during this difficult and challenging time.
He stresses that following the correct advice will really make a difference in preventing the spread of Covid-19 further in Ireland and also on the impact it will have on our health service.