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    Pharmacists Work Through Northern California Firestorms

    In the middle of terrible disaster, pharmacists were there.

    Pharmacists across Northern California stayed on the job through firestorms that sent more than 100,000 residents fleeing for their lives.

    “Our pharmacist and owner, Robert Pellegrini, didn’t leave the pharmacy for three days,” said Debbi Ling, Operations Manager at Tuttle’s Doyle Park Pharmacy in Santa Rosa, an area worst hit by the fires. The pharmacy gave away thousands of prescriptions because it didn’t have the time or staff to deal with rejected claims for those who didn’t have insurance cards or a prescription on file. “When people are running out the door without their inhalers or their insulin or even their glasses, it’s more important to get them their medications than worry about who is going to pay for it,” she said. That’s what pharmacists do.”

    Related article: Pharmacy Supply Lines Are Still Shaking After Storm Passes

    A few miles away, Dollar Drug sat between charred remains of two neighborhoods. “We were just two blocks away from being evacuated,” said co-owner Mark Guttormsen, PharmD. Winds drove embers that torched entire neighborhoods in minutes, he said. “There isn’t anyone on staff who didn’t lose their home, wasn’t evacuated, usually multiple times as the winds shifted, or has evacuees staying with them.” They kept filling scripts for people who had nothing but the clothes they were wearing. “We weren’t concerned about getting paid, there were more important things going on.”

    The state Insurance Commissioner put initial damage estimates at more than $1 billion.  

    QuoteOne pharmacy had smoke and water damage, said Virginia Herold, Executive Director of California’s State Board of Pharmacy; multiple pharmacies were closed by evacuation orders, but no pharmacies burned.

    Walgreens and CVS, the dominant chains in the region, said all their pharmacies were undamaged and back open within a few days. Safeway brought in pharmacists from around the state to help.

    Pellegrini, an RPh, kept Tuttle’s Doyle Park Pharmacy open as the line of evacuees who needed emergency fills wound out the door into dense clouds of smoke. 

    Up next: Danger and dwindling supplies

    Fred Gebhart, Contributing Editor
    Contributing Editor Fred Gebhart works all over the world as a freelance writer and editor, but his home base is in San Francisco.

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