“I think that the health authorities need to be more aware of the enormous health potential of pharmacists and our pharmacy and distribution model, and they must be more willing to rely on them.”

Interview with Eladio González, president of the Apothecary Cooperative of the Balearic Islands and FEDIFAR.

Pharmacists, practitioners of a profession that has provided an essential service throughout the pandemic, have suffered first-hand from the consequences of Covid-19, having been at the front line from the very first minute. What are the main problems they have faced during this time, and how have they been psychologically affected by dealing with patients and their families?

The work carried out by pharmaceutical professionals ever since the onset of the pandemic has been simply extraordinary. Pharmacies, backed by the vital support offered by pharmaceutical distribution companies, have ensured that everyone has had regular access to whatever medication and health products they needed, all while providing an outstanding health service. We mustn’t forget that we have been battling countless difficulties and extremely complicated circumstances throughout the pandemic, both on a professional and personal level. The pharmacy’s doors have remained open at all times, with the pharmacist often being the only health professional available to tend to people’s needs. It has been especially tough for us from a psychological viewpoint during these challenging times, given our close relationship with the general public and our close contact with people when dealing with their health problems. We’ve been faced with some very complicated situations that have taken their toll on us, as you can imagine.

The typical image of a pharmacist is that of someone helping the public. Have pharmacists seen their role grow over this last year as a result of people being more unsettled?

Without a doubt. Both pharmacists and pharmaceutical wholesalers have shown that they are fully committed to helping the public ever since the beginning of these very troubling times. Distributors have been guaranteeing the regular supply of medications and health products to pharmacies and working tirelessly to meet the increased demand for Covid-19 protective material, while pharmacists have been on the front line since the beginning of the pandemic, demonstrating a true vocation for public service and social commitment, ensuring that everyone has access to medication and health advice. A prime example of the supporting role that pharmacies have played during this health crisis – although it’s not necessarily the case in all communities – is the home service that they have provided, delivering medication from hospital pharmacies to patients’ doors to avoid unnecessary hospital visits. This is undoubtedly a service that has significantly been cherished by those who have used a pharmacy throughout the last few months. And that’s what matters most of all to us.

In addition to being a pharmacist and president of the Federation of Pharmaceutical Distributors (FEDER), you also preside over the Apothecary Cooperative. What have been the main challenges faced by the Cooperative over the last year?

To maintain the high level of service that we have been providing until now. This is all thanks to the arduous work carried out by the Cooperative’s workers, employees and executives. I would also like to highlight the structural changes and heroic effort of the human team that often goes unnoticed. The greatest challenge for the Apothecary Cooperative will still be to continue being a loyal, committed and efficient ally to pharmacies, our members and the Balearic public as a whole. This means that we have to keep ensuring that it has fair, quality and safe access to medications through pharmacies. We will continue to reinforce our logistics to become more and more efficient, and we will keep on investing and innovating to provide the best service possible to pharmacies and citizens throughout the Balearics, which is our number one priority.

In your opinion, aside from mass vaccination, what measures are essential for bringing this pandemic to an end as quickly as possible?

Right now, the first step that we need to take in order to leave the pandemic behind as soon as possible is to achieve immunity through the mass vaccination of the islands’ residents. To do this, we need to gather enough vaccines as quickly as we can. Once this happens, we’ll need to analyse everything that has happened during the pandemic to take lessons from it and improve, allowing us to better tackle similar situations in the future. For example, I think that the health authorities need to be more aware of the enormous health potential of pharmacists and our pharmacy and distribution model, and they must be more willing to rely on them. We can go however far the administrations want us to.

Based on your relationship with pharmacists, what do you think the distribution of the different vaccines will be like in the Balearics, and what will the health situation be like next summer, the high season of economic activity on the islands?

Rather than make a prediction, which I think is rather foolish to do in such uncertain times, I’d like to talk about desire. I hope that the vaccination is distributed throughout the Balearics in a manner that is as quick and streamlined as possible so that the greatest number of citizens can be vaccinated as fast as possible. In this situation, speed equals lives. Ideally, a very high percentage of the islands’ population would be vaccinated before the start of the summer. Tourism is the main source of economy in the Balearic, and countless companies and jobs depend on it, which is why I hope this desire becomes a reality so that we can get back to normal by summer. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m sure that the health authorities are doing all they can to work towards this goal and they can rely on pharmaceutical professionals and distributors to help them achieve it.

What are Apothecary Cooperative’s intentions for 2021, and which new challenges have arisen?

We have started the year with the best intentions; we can’t have it any other way. We are faced with a significant period of uncertainty which obviously presents us with a considerable challenge, one that we hope to rise to as successfully as possible by throwing all we can at it. A large part of it will depend on the vaccination targets being met, and as a result, society returning to normal. That’s what we want so that 2021 ends up being as successful as possible for all.