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    Pharmacists Work Through Northern California Firestorms

    In the middle of terrible disaster, pharmacists were there.


    Paul Lofholm, PharmD, owner of Ross Valley Pharmacy, was one of dozens of pharmacists who volunteered for emergency services and worked at a Red Cross evacuation center. 

    “Red Cross triaged patients to us if they needed medications,” Lofholm said. “One of the biggest problem in evacuation centers was simply getting medications, either for patients or for the medical teams dealing with burns, injuries, and respiratory problems. Hospitals and pharmacies were closed by evacuations and supply chains were disrupted. There was a lot of making do and calling to see who was still open and had stock we could get to.”

    Richie Duenas, PharmD, has two pharmacies near the fire area. “The Board of Pharmacy allows us to dispense as needed in case of emergency,” he said. “We can throw meds in a van and go mobile if that’s what it takes. But these fires, spread across four or five counties, showed just how fragile the supply chain is. Our UPS driver was wearing all the right protective gear, but his eyes were bloodshot and streaming from the smoke and he was wheezing through his mask. He was getting through with meds and plasma for pharmacies and shelters, but barely. We need something more reliable.”

    Related article: Pharmacists Tackle Hurricane Harvey

    OTCs and supplies were another problem. Health authorities as far away as San Francisco recommended N95 masks for respiratory protection, but stocks of those were quickly exhausted.

    “We had cases of N95s because we use them in compounding,” Guttormsen said, “but we still ran out. You just don’t think about wildfire sweeping through a city of 175,000 or taking down the entire region. We do now.” 

    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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