PHARMACISTS have told of their personal sacrifices and fears during the pandemic as cases reach a critical level in Bradford for the second time.
Saghir Ahmed, a superintendent pharmacist at The Ridge Pharmacy and other Imaan Healthcare branches in Bradford, described the 2020 as the “most challenging part” of his career so far.
Pharmacies have been a port of call for patients in need of medicine and coronavirus advice and a friendly voice down the phone line – often working from the early hours into the night.
Looking back over the past few weeks, Mr Ahmed told the Telegraph & Argus: “We have staff to be able to accommodate the amount of workload increasing but we always had our pharmacists going off sick or having to isolate as they were demonstrating symptoms or their family were. We were always short of staff.
“We know of family’s that have had bereavements. It’s disheartening and really sad to hear that this has been quite rampant in our local communities.
“I know they’re tired. We didn’t allow any time off till June because we need our pharmacists to be working on the frontline of healthcare.
“Some of these guys were away from their families for long periods of time. It’s hard for their little kids. When they get some time with them they’re absolutely exhausted. They’ve been taking time for themselves. The guys are doing great. They’re working flat out.
“They’ve experienced some of their patients who they see on a regular basis pass away. They know of their customer’s parents who passed away. When you’re responsible for keeping them healthy and making sure the dosage is correct for them, you almost start thinking could you have done anything differently or given them any better advice or even one percent of a positive change to be able to create a better outcome? That’s the most difficult thing to experience.”
While community pharmacies are working in the heart of residential areas, city centre pharmacies are facing struggles of their own.
Bradford’s oldest pharmacy, Rimmington’s, saw customers switch to different pharmacies during the lockdown period with users fearing public transport and leaving their local area. As city centre footfall remains low despite a lift in restrictions, owners Sajid Hussain and Qaisar Sheikh are left in a difficult situation when it comes to paying rent as normal.
There’s two sides to this ‘new normal’, says Mr Hussain. His team are “exhausted” and fearful for their families while those running the business feel the financial pressures.
Mr Hussain said: “When I asked my team ‘How do you feel?’ one said ‘Tired and the other said ‘Very tired’. I think physically it’s ok, it’s just mental – exhausted of battling Covid in our minds. We’re mentally getting exhausted.
“We’ve got mothers worried about coming into work. I respect my staff as they were very strong-minded. We’re in the care business and today’s our time to stand strong and firm. Tomorrow it might be the military, it might be the police tomorrow.
“You don’t want your staff to panic, you don’t want them to have that fear. Now they’re thinking ‘I’ve got this far, am I going to get jinxed now?’ or sometimes think about their children.
“We want to look back and say ‘We did our bit’.”
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The pharmacists have accessed the Government’s deferred VAT and Income Tax payment scheme and accepted a loan from the NHS to help pay bills.
But Mr Hussain has urged landlords to be respectful of the current financial pressures and the Government to look at how it can support city centre based pharmacists further if footfall does not increase, especially as cases rise.
“Rimmington’s is a city centre pharmacy, I think it needs support as it’s not getting the footfall,” Mr Hussain added.
“We lost a lot of business to the Covid-19 virus. We’re buying higher and supplying slower.”