Covid Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving, As Well As Taking Staff Away From The Pharmacy, Writes Ultan Molloy

I don’t know where to start. Covid really is the virus that just keeps on giving, isn’t it, and now a BA.2 variant on the way! It’s a Monday evening when I’m writing this, and I’m wrecked. It’s been a fairly challenging week, with one of our kids testing positive, so I’ve banished myself to a friend’s house 2km away as he’s UK-based. Laura has been minding the three of them, and put her back out yesterday, so I’m playing Covid roulette, dipping in and out of home to support what little I can. It’s just Rose testing positive still as of today, and five days on from her first positive rapid antigen test.

The uncertainty of the day-today is unnerving. I got a text a week ago that our Saturday cover pharmacist for one of our pharmacies tested positive. Yesterday, a pharmacist who was covering Tuesday and Wednesday in one pharmacy, and our main pharmacist in the other pharmacy, who was down to work five days this week, both tested positive for Covid on rapid antigen tests.

After I got over the shock of it last evening, I decided to split my day between the two pharmacies, informed the GPs and prepared posters for the patients — 7.30am start in Ballyhaunis, back to Ballindine for 9.15am to 11.30am, then back to Ballyhaunis from midday to 2.30pm, then Ballindine from 3pm to 4.30pm, then Ballyhaunis 4.45pm until 5.45pm, and then 6 to close in Ballindine.

The same schedule is likely for tomorrow, with some cover imminent for Wednesday and Thursday. We’ll see what Friday and Saturday brings then — I’ll cross that bridge in a couple of days. Where have all the pharmacists gone again? I had some potential ‘cash’ options, and candidates expecting some silly rates for this week, but I don’t see it as fair to our regular pharmacists if I set a precedent there. I’d rather reward loyalty and commitment to our team, customers, business and indeed me. We really need more missionaries rather than mercenaries. It’s just depressing me at this stage.

We’ve a great team, great systems in place, we support one another, have a lovely customer base, our team is well paid, and I think we’re sensitive to their personal needs. What can I do. I think it’s that so much at the moment is out of my control when it comes to staffing,

Covid impact and managing our increasing cost base. And there he reaches a dead end… what else is going on? Not much, really. I’m just hoping to get through this week in reasonable shape as a father, husband, colleague, friend and pharmacist. It wouldn’t be sustainable every week, of course. The weekend is the target. Diet, exercise and sleep, as the trinity of wellbeing, how do! They’ll be parked somewhat, with some feeble attempts at self-care as the coming days go by.

“You’re a human doing, not a human being” someone said to me recently. “What are you going to do about it?” Indeed. What am I going to do about it.

So I’m playing Covid roulette, dipping in and out of home to support what little I can

Options feel limited at the moment. Everyone else de-masked, had some fun and kicked on, and meanwhile I’m 2km away from my family most of this week to try and keep the doors open for patients and customers and pay the bills.

Who’s got it right there, I ask you? I’m full of the joys today, am I not! I don’t know what else to say. If there is a light at the end of this f@*king tunnel, then show me it. Feeling hopeless? Maybe. I’ll have a think about that. So, to more positive things. I’ve been watching The Last Dance about Michael Jordan on Netflix. Absolutely amazing footage, and so well put-together, if you’re looking for something to watch.

It’s been a joy. Also, our two-year-old June has been keeping us highly entertained of late with banter, eating before and behind her (making up for the other two), and telling us regularly that she is “the boss of the house”. Not a word of a lie there! She’s some craic. I miss the kids at this point. Their mother is feeling quite the opposite at this stage, with intensive solo parenting of said busy minions! The days are getting longer too, aren’t they, and I’ve admired some lovely sunshine out of the dispensary windows for a few hours yesterday afternoon when I was trying to get ahead checking medication trays for this week.

Will we be able to plan enough cover for a few days off to enjoy a family holiday over the summer, I wonder. It’s felt like it’s week-to-week recently, although it’s very much day-today at the moment. Most of our team have been kind and selfless as always in their support and flexibility, and a couple in particular never fail to surprise me with their commitment, loyalty and kindness. That warms my heart. While I’ve not always done a great job of showing appreciation, kindness, and support in days gone by, I hope they feel that I’ve got their backs now too.