JEDDAH: With curfews eased across much of Saudi Arabia, vital services provided by initiatives such as drive-thru pharmacies are helping to ensure social distancing for chronically ill patients.
Drive-thru pharmacy services are growing worldwide, and a number of hospitals across the Kingdom have opened centers and organized staff to serve patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Jeddah launched a drive-thru service on April 5 after a partial lockdown was ordered in the city on March 29 to prevent further spread of the virus.
“The hospital serves many patients across the Western region and, due to the lockdown, they are restricted from picking up their medications unless they’re given a permit allowing them to leave their homes,” said Dr. Abdulmohsin Marghalani, director of the hospital’s pharmaceutical care division.
“By establishing this drive-thru, we can lower the risk of transmission, and provide patients with their medications hassle free and in the safety of their cars.”
More than 9,800 medications have been dispensed to more than 3,200 patients since April 5.
Patients’ waiting times have also fallen dramatically, Marghalani said. The drive-thru pharmacy allows prescriptions to be filled quickly, with patient health and safety a top priority, he added.
“Patients must go through several screening points when entering the hospital, which can uncomfortable and time consuming,” Marghalani said.
Extra care is taken when preparing medications, with staff wearing protective suits. Medications are properly packaged and stored, he said.
Patients who contact the pharmacy call center are provided with options allowing for delivery or pickup. Increasing numbers of patients are choosing the drive-thru service.
“The situation has forced many health institutions to go ahead with emergency plans. This service is also important because you have biologics (medications developed from biological sources) and fridge items that are difficult to package and deliver through service companies,” Marghalani said.
Saudi Arabia has initiated a three-phase plan to return to normal life by June 21, but procedures are subject to continuous evaluation.
According to Marghalani, the service will continue so that patients suffering from chronic illnesses will no longer have to come to the hospital, take a number and wait their turn — a voice message to the call center with their name and file number will suffice.
Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, the drive-thru service is considering expanding its hours of operation, he added.