It’s difficult to write anything about the Covid-19 pandemic that hasn’t already been said. At time of writing, there are tentative conversations about when we will all be able to get back to ‘normal’, although it is unsure whether that ‘normal’ will be radically different from the one we knew. Are you thinking about leaving the screens in place at your pharmacy counter when the siege is lifted? A reasonable argument could be made for leaving the screens up, not least because they would offer a little extra protection for the pharmacist from unwelcome elements other than Covid-19. Bearing in mind the way threatening and violent crimes against pharmacists and their staff are treated so lightly by the justice system, any deterrent is a welcome one.
So it’s with a very cautious optimism that perhaps we can start talking about life after Covid-19. It will pass, as all things do, both good and bad, and those people who are lucky enough to be able to work from home, and are able to do so effectively, will be wondering why they need to go back to the daily drudgery of the commute and the sterility of the office environment.
Maybe, just maybe, this crisis could herald a new way of working in Ireland for some people.
Also, the rapid onset of pharmacists’ ability to use Healthmail and photocopy GMS prescriptions is a sensible and practical approach. Is there really any good reason to roll-back on those when Covid-19 is in the rear-view mirror? It’s a great opportunity for the IPU to say to Government, ‘we told you so’.
For those people with young children, the absence of extortionate childcare fees must feel like having an anvil lifted from their shoulders. However — much as we love them — there is nothing easy about caring for young children in lockdown.
The fatalities resulting from Covid-19 is of course the most tragic aspect of this pandemic. Elderly people who have given their lives in service to their families and their nation have been snuffed-out in the most cruel and abrupt fashion. The fact that many young people who had full, rich lives ahead of them and were snatched from us is also obscene in its tragedy. But as we begin to dust-off the other wreckage caused by the pandemic, it is already becoming clear that being in lockdown, losing jobs, losing family members and the stress of general uncertainty is causing, and will cause, enormous mental health problems among your patients. No doubt you have already seen a considerable increase in the amount of prescription medications for depression and anxiety crossing your counter.
Pharmacists, nurses and doctors are being lauded in a way that is unprecedented, but how long will that last when Covid-19 is a thing of the past? Virtue-signalling with supportive tweets and clapping on the doorstep for nurses is all very well but is ultimately of limited practical use, save perhaps to boost the morale of front-line healthcare staff. (As an aside, where were all the guards before the outbreak and what were they doing? They can’t all have been filling out paperwork and I know a reasonable amount of people who are happy to see an increased Garda presence on our streets.)
But perhaps the most revealing aspect of this healthcare crisis is how much individuals, representative bodies, Government and the pharmaceutical industry can achieve when they are all pulling in the same direction.
Behind the scenes, research is being conducted at breakneck speed and aside from the well-deserved praise being heaped on front-line healthcare workers, there really should be more awareness of the incredible work being done in labs all over the world to bring clinical solutions to this pandemic.
Front-line workers’ ability to help us out of this crisis is limited if they do not have the tools to do so.