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IN IT TOGETHER: Ensuring an adequate medication supply during the pandemic

Posted Jun 30th, 2020

IN IT TOGETHER: Ensuring an adequate medication supply during the pandemic

This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Karmen Plantic, Pharmacy Technician supervisor.

Karmen Plantic has had a lot of experience planning for potential shortages of medications during her more than 20 years as a Pharmacy Technician.

But nothing to the level of the planning to ensure Niagara Health had the proper supply of medications to prepare for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients requiring a critical level of care.

“The pandemic was above and beyond anything we have ever seen,” she says. “We started the process of drug procurement early in the planning. We estimated how much medication we would need for patients related to the virus, including medication for people needing to be on a ventilator."

Niagara Health's Pharmacy program serves all inpatient clinical programs as well as the regional cancer centre, dialysis program and outpatient clinics. The team of Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians support the medication-related needs of patients to ensure safe and effective use of medications, working closely with other members of the healthcare team

Pharmacy Technicians are responsible for the distribution of medications, preparing and dispensing medications, and they play an important role in other quality and safety initiatives, including gathering medication information from patients when they are admitted to hospital. It’s part of our Best Possible Medication History process, which makes sure accurate and comprehensive medication information is communicated during care transitions for all of our patients.

RESPONDING TO THE PANDEMIC

As the Niagara Health Pharmacy team watched what was happening with COVID-19 in other parts of the world early in 2020, they recognized that drug supply had the potential to be a major concern in Canada.

The team immediately started working on pro-actively reviewing its drug supply and focusing efforts on obtaining medications that would be in high demand for critically ill COVID patients

Karmen’s experience was one of the reasons she was re-assigned to a team of Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians leading drug procurement strategies for Niagara Health.

In the early days of the pandemic, the team monitored patient activity and NH’s drug inventory status daily. They were also prepared with alternative drug options and put conservation strategies in place to ensure a steady stock of medications.

The team’s planning and hard work proved successful in ensuring we had a proper supply of medication.

“I feel blessed that at Niagara Health we were always one step ahead of the game when it comes to drug procurement and the way processes work,” says Karmen. “Our team has done an extremely good job of making sure we had adequate supplies of medications and in ensuring the medications were being used safely. We also put in place different processes to conserve drugs. The way the team has pulled together was very rewarding to see. We are also prepared for a second wave of COVID-19 if that were to happen. We have our stock of medication reserved for that.”

Another important part of the team’s work has been ensuring we have a proper supply of medications for surgical procedures, as Niagara Health begins to gradually increase the number of surgeries performed. During the pandemic, about 3,000 elective surgical procedures were postponed.

THE PERSONAL IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC

It has been a challenging time on the personal side for Karmen during the pandemic.

She had to postpone her wedding with her fiancé on June 20. While disappointing, Karmen says she and her fiancé are grateful they are healthy.

“We are getting through this together, so I’m not complaining. We will figure out another time for the wedding.”

The hardest part personally for Karmen was not being able to see her infant grandson in the first three months of the pandemic.

“That was very hard. But now he is part of our social bubble, so I can see him, which is really special.”

Read more In It Together stories about our team here.

Niagara Health System