What Lawtons Drugs in Montague, PEI lacks in size, it more than makes up in service. Over seven years in business, the pharmacy has become an integral part of the community of 2,000 and the “go-to” source for healthcare products and services for patients in rural eastern Prince Edward Island.
By Talbot Boggs
Photography by Dan MacKinnon
“You could characterize us as your average small pharmacy, but what we have done is to focus on building great relationships with doctors, other healthcare providers, patients and our employees to provide superior selection and patient services,” says pharmacy manager Christy Smith. “We have been successful, and our pharmacy was the first location in the Sobeys network to achieve the highest level in an independent measurement of customer and employee engagement.”
Lawtons Drugs, for example, is the only pharmacy in the area to offer compression stocking fittings with a trained fitter. Smith is a certified injection pharmacist qualified to administer vaccines to patients over 18 for a variety of diseases, among them diphtheria and tetanus, hepatitis A and B, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus, pneumococcal disease and influenza.
One week she and staff pharmacist Chris McKenna administered 100 flu vaccinations. “This is a service that our patients really like,” she notes. “The flu vaccination was so popular we ran through our entire inventory, but we haven’t been able to continue because the government has distributed all the vaccine that was available. We’re hoping that we will receive more before the end of this flu season.”
She also recently received authorization to prescribe for minor ailments. In PEI, this includes 30 minor ailments such as nicotine dependence, joint and muscle pain, non-infectious diarrhea, oral ulcers, threadworms and pinworms, hemorrhoids and mild to moderate eczema, among other conditions.
Smith focuses personally on conducting medication reviews for seniors and diabetics, and often consults with and refers her patients to a diabetes education nurse who has an office in the medical building where the pharmacy is located. With COPD teaching support from Chris McKenna, Smith provides support and educational services to a clinic in the building, as well as eight family physicians and two nurse practitioners, and she participates in support groups for stroke victims and Parkinson’s patients.
“It’s really important to be visible and volunteer in the local community,” Smith says. “This is primarily a fishing and farming community, but we have a diverse population with lots of different needs. And we share the concerns of everyone in this province on the big issues that affect us all: promoting healthy lifestyles, addressing the safety issues associated with the use of narcotics, and minimizing the long-term effects of chronic diseases, such as diabetes. For example, we can provide methadone treatment for those recovering from drug addiction. It’s important to have these services available when people need them, close to where they live.”
Smith has also made a special effort to provide products and services to help local residents maintain their health at home. The provincial government has designated the pharmacy a supplier to patients receiving palliative care at home. The company recently renovated the pharmacy to add a private consultation room for injections and stocking fittings and revamped the home healthcare section to offer bath aids such as benches, bars and raised toilet seats, crutches, walkers and mobility aids, and other everyday home aid products.
Over the years, Smith and her team of five pharmacists, technicians and others have worked to develop strong relationships with local doctors and other healthcare professionals by consulting with them regularly about patients and being visible and available in the community. Pharmacy staff regularly participate in training in customer relations and engagement offered by Sobeys. “We’ve really tried hard to make good connections with everyone we deal with,” Smith says. “It’s become part of who we are, how we operate, how we’ve been able to meet the needs of our customers and ultimately the reason for our success.”