International Pharmacists, Techs Report Shortages, COVID-19 Fears, But Remain Determined

We asked international pharmacists to share what they’re experiencing on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak in their countries.

Since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began in December 2019, it has infected more than 1.2 million people around the world and has resulted in over 67,500 deaths.1 Pharmacists continue to play a major role during the pandemic, from caring for patients with confirmed cases, ensuring the safety of other patients, and working to protect themselves and other medical professionals.

We asked international pharmacists to share what they’re experiencing on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak in their countries. Although individual countries are reporting different numbers of confirmed cases and various quarantine measures, there were many similarities.

Philippines

Ching Junio, RPh, an intensive care unit (ICU) clinical pharmacist, messaged Pharmacy Times® from the Philippines, where she said they are experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. Many staff are sleeping in the hospital because they have no public transportation and must therefore walk or bike hours to get to work.

“Almost all our patients in ICU are on at least 3 sedatives, 2 pressors,” Junio said, adding that most of them have comorbidities. “The workload is getting heavy; I handle 20-30 patients per shift.”

The Philippines has currently reported more than 3200 confirmed cases and 152 deaths due to COVID-19.1

Junio also said the hospital has reduced the number of pharmacists on duty in order to avoid further exposure to staff members, many of whom are already quarantined.

“The peak is yet to come in our country,” she said. “Mass testing is on the way. We are hoping to flatten the curve as much as we can.”

Jordan

Several pharmacists in Jordan said they were proud of the country’s low reported cases of COVID-19, which they attributed to the government’s swift response. The country has reported just 345 cases and 5 deaths.1

In a message to Pharmacy Times®, HaNin Al-Jamal said her friend, Shams Noman, BCs, has been encouraging her patients in Jordan to stay home and wash their hands frequently. Noman has also encouraged patients to stock up on medications for any chronic illnesses in preparation for ongoing lockdowns, according to Al-Jamal.

Portugal

Like those in the Philippines and Jordan, pharmacists in Portugal have been working long hours and experiencing shortages of PPE. As of Monday, Portugal had reported 11278 confirmed cases and 295 deaths.1

Tatiana Mendes, PharmD, a pharmacist in Lisbon, has been working extended hours in the hospital without complaint, according to Claudia Coelho, PharmD. Coelho added that Mendes works in a large hospital, where she ensures that more than 300 patients per day have access to their medications.

The long shifts without sufficient PPE are especially concerning. Coelho said hospital employees are currently allowed 1 mask per shift and wear the same uniform for the entire week. She added that Mendes has not been visiting her parents, brother, or friends, all in an effort to keep them safe.

“I know she [has] a smile behind her mask because she knows that her persons are safe at home.” Mendes said.

Pharmacy Times® wants to continue featuring the experiences of pharmacists, technicians, and pharmacy staff members inside and outside of the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Email AAntrim@pharmacytimes.com to let us know what you’re seeing.