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Manitoba pharmacists not being given gloves, masks during COVID-19 outbreak

Click to play video 'Manitoba pharmacists make do during COVID-19' Manitoba pharmacists make do during COVID-19
WATCH: They're essential service workers and deal with potentially ill people each day, but aren't front of the line for PPE equipment. Global's Malika Karim learns how some Manitoba pharmacists are faring.

As essential services in Manitoba remain open during physical distancing protocols, pharmacists say they are worried because they’re not being given the tools to protect themselves.

Gloves, specific face masks and medical gowns are all classified as personal protective equipment (PPE) used by frontline heath care workers like doctors and nurses right now to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Manitoba’s non-essential businesses shuttered as province battles COVID-19

“It is a little frustrating,” pharmacist Carey Lai said when asked how he feels about not getting supplies from the government.

Lai and his staff at Leila Pharmacy don’t have PPE’s to wear, although they are working and speaking to clients daily. Pharmacies are classified as an essential service and will be open for clients to fill their prescriptions in person.

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“We definitely understand that prioritization of the personal protecting equipment should go to our colleagues there, but we also understand our exposure is there. But not as nearly as high as our medical colleagues that are working in the hospital and also in the front lines at testing-screening sites,” Lai added.

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“But as essential health workers many of my pharmacists, my colleagues, we just don’t have access to it and we haven’t been allotted any supplies.”

The province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, addressed the lack of PPEs for pharmacists and whether or not they’ll be getting supplies any time soon at a news briefing on Wednesday.

“That’s not in the plans right now,” Dr. Roussin said.

“This is spread by close contact, so being across a counter from someone is fairly low risk.”

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READ MORE: ‘This is disrespectful’: Manitoba Premier says it’s time for people to follow COVID-19 directives

The province said they’ll continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba, but for now aren’t making any changes to their distribution of supplies.

“Prolonged contact is how this is spread, so only people who are within that close base, assessing clients, are required to wear personal protective equipment,” Dr. Roussin said.

It can be a little stressful for pharmacists, but he has confidence in his team, said Lai.

“There’s a lot of hand washing with soap for 20 seconds, we’re practicing social distancing,” Lai said.

“If you’re not feeling well or you’re just having season allergies or coughing, we’ve been recommending our staff take the day off, get rested, before they come back to work.”