Pictured are staff of The Medicine Shoppe in Port Hawkesbury who have been observing public health protocols since March.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Another local business is among those nominated in Advocate Media’s “Shine On” campaign.

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy employee Jeannette Shaw nominated her employer for going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am a proud employee at The Medicine Shoppe,” Shaw said in her submission. “My employer Michael Hatt and my coworkers have been phenomenal during this pandemic is so many ways!”

For his part, The Medicine Shoppe owner and pharmacist Michael Hatt was humbled by the nomination.

As a pharmacy, the Port Hawkesbury business had a lot of rules to follow when the state of emergency was declared and new public health protocols introduced back in March. This included putting the brakes on renovations.

Michael Hatt

“Of course, it was a learning process and we’ve had some great support from our federal and provincial boards, guiding us on what to do,” Hatt recalled.

Even before cases of COVID-19 started appearing in the province, Hatt said they got to work erecting plexi-glass barriers, limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at the same time, switching from cash to debit and credit cards, limiting the use of pens for customers, having staff use Personal Protective Equipment, sanitizing every half hour, and putting arrows on the floor to improve traffic flow.

Since closing wasn’t an option, Hatt said The Medicine Shoppe changed its hours, by closing at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The store has since reverted back to regular hours. They also tweaked staff schedules.

“We even changed around our scheduling a little bit so that we could ensure that not all the staff were in the store at the same time,” Hatt noted.

Customers were told not to enter if they exhibited any symptoms of COVID-19, but instead call The Medicine Shoppe for service. Staff did take the temperatures of customers who exhibited one or more symptoms, Hatt said, noting that customers were not required to wear masks but they are given masks upon arrival.

“If they’re in an area, like a closed room for example, a lot of our business is, for privacy reasons, we have two private spaces that we meet with our clients, and if we’re meeting with them and we can’t observe social distancing, so in other words if we’re within six feet, I get them to wear a mask,” Hatt explained.

Originally, only three people were allowed in the store at the same time but that has since increased to four customers.

“But we’re still essentially observing everything else,” Hatt said.

Describing business as sporadic during the pandemic, Hatt recounted how The Medicine Shoppe was very busy in March, leading them to experience shortages of items like PPEs, masks, regular prescriptions, and medicines.

“Those first two weeks were probably the toughest two weeks I’ve ever experienced,” Hatt said.

After those first two weeks, Hatt reported a two-week lull, but since then, it’s been steady.

“Selling the PPE supplies has taken up a lot of time, we have a lot more requests for deliveries which we’re accommodating, we have a lot of people that would generally drop in the store who are now calling,” Hatt noted.

Looking ahead, Hatt said flu shot season in October promises to be a challenge, especially ordering ahead for PPE.

“We don’t know that’s doing to look like yet,” he said. “We don’t know what regulations are going to come to allow us to do that. We’re just trying to plan in advance.”

Considering the lack of vaccine, and the possibility of second and third waves of transmission, Hatt added that he doesn’t expect a quick return to the old normal from the new normal.

“We’re just encouraging people to still follow the guidelines,” Hatt added. “We advertise it, we have our spacing here, we’re asking people to observe social distancing.

“If you’re being asked to wear masks, or gloves, whenever the time comes, and if we are enforcing it, just be understanding and lenient and know it’s for their safety and ours.”

Photo by Jake Boudrot
The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Port Hawkesbury has been nominated in Advocate Media’s “Shine On” campaign, highlighting local businesses which have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winner in the “Shine On” campaign will receive an advertising package valued at $3,000 and the chance to be highlighted in Advocate Media’s publications in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. To nominate a business, go to: http://porthawkesburyreporter.com/shine-on/.