By James Morrison B.Sc.Phm. C.D.E.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Toronto, Andrew Chabursky, owner of three Wholehealth Pharmacy Partners banner locations (Healing Source Pharmacy, Markland Wood Pharmacy, and Symington Drugs) as well as the restaurant Old School, mobilized resources at his disposal to prepare and deliver relief kits to vulnerable people in isolation. Andrew’s primary pharmacy practice is Symington Drugs in Toronto.
The ultimate goal of “Operation Ramzieh” is to ensure that seniors in isolation have food and supplies to last approximately 10 days, thereby permitting them to stay at home and prevent contracting the virus. In addition to keeping seniors healthy and safe, Andrew states, “this initiative gives our healthcare system a fighting chance against the pandemic by flattening the curve.”
Operation Ramzieh began in Ottawa shortly after the outbreak and recently expanded to Toronto. The initiative has raised more than $80,000 in donations via Go Fund Me. Andrew explained that during the pandemic it is difficult to collect donations from the public as much of the community is facing economic uncertainty due to reduced income or layoffs. Additional financial donations are greatly needed as demand remains high for the relief kits.
Initially, the team of volunteers prepared kits at Old School restaurant, but they quickly outgrew that space. Now, volunteers meet regularly at a warehouse facility on Dupont Street, Toronto, to assemble the relief kits. Additional volunteers are welcome to enlist to assist with packing and delivery.
A typical relief kit contains basic staples including beans, granola bars, oatmeal, pasta, rice, soup, and tomato sauce. Fresh produce has also been included such as apples, banana, carrots, oranges, and potatoes. At times, there is bread, buns, bagels, or pastries included in the kit as well. Much of the food has been generously donated or discounted by suppliers around the city.
Andrew’s three pharmacy teams were eager to identify patients in isolation who needed additional support. Andrew explained that his pharmacy teams know their patients well and were able to identify the most vulnerable individuals who needed assistance to remain in isolation. The pharmacy patients were thankful to receive a relief kit at the same time their medication blister packs were delivered.
The initiative has expanded rapidly with more than 2000 boxes delivered to hospices, seniors’ residences, and shelters across Toronto. Individual people in isolation have reached out through email and phone calls requesting assistance. One notable call came from a family living in Collingwood who expressed concern for their mother living alone in Toronto. The initiative was able to bring food and supplies to the mother’s door, stop her from heading out on public transit to do her shopping, and prevented her exposure to the virus.
James Morrison B.Sc.Phm. C.D.E. is Director of Pharmacy Excellence, Wholehealth Pharmacy Partners
Watch the video of the volunteers packing relief kits.