Wen Wei Chung, Yin Yen Wong, Pauline Siew Mei Lai, Yew Kong Lee, Christina Phoay Lay Tan, Wei Leik Ng, Hooi Min Lim, Charity Lee, Chirk Jenn Ng


Pharmacists had to cope with workflow disruptions due to travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to explore the challenges faced by pharmacists in one designated COVID-19 hospital in Malaysia. This qualitative study was conducted in two phases: August 2020 during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) and November 2020 when a colleague was COVID-19+. Pharmacists working in inpatient, outpatient, drug information, procurement and manufacturing were purposively recruited. In-depth interviews were conducted using a semi-structured topic guide. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a thematic approach. Twenty and 14 pharmacists participated in August and November, respectively (age range: 26-53 years). Three themes emerged: (1) Challenges to medication supply. Patients were discouraged from coming to the hospital for medication refills; hence, medications had to be delivered to patients. However, the existing delivery system was inadequate to support demand as the process was manual. This led to an increase in pharmacists’ workload and pharmacists’ were re assigned to affected areas to maintain services. Some pharmacists delivered medications personally as the postal service was overwhelmed. Procurement of medications and personal protective equipment was chaotic as there were no established guidelines on how COVID-19+ patients should be managed during the early phase. (2) Impact on self and family. Pharmacists were exhausted due to the increased workload. Nonetheless, they felt respected and received strong family support. (3)When a colleague was tested COVID-19+, pharmacists with “close contact” felt lonely, isolated and stigmatized when asked to go for a swab. They self-isolated themselves and felt guilty when they had to work from home. Pharmacists have to continuously pursue updated information to manage Covid-19+ patients. Additionally, pharmacists had to adapt to changes and find solutions to automate workflow to cope with demands and new norms.

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