The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt on every continent. As local and national governments implement social distancing and other preventive measures, life is changing rapidly for everyone, at work and at home.
But for many, it becomes more important than ever to carry on with everyday business as much as possible. We’re seeing this especially across Walgreens Boots Alliance as people rely on dedicated pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, sales associates, delivery drivers and so many other team members to help ensure customers and patients have access to much-needed medications, products and services.
Here’s a snapshot of how our global teams are performing everyday acts of heroism – the small things (and the large ones) to help make sure their communities are cared for in the face of a global crisis.
In early March, several patients from the Princess Cruise ship as well as evacuees from Wuhan Province, China with positive tests for COVID-19 were quarantined at Lackland - Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. These individuals were quarantined without access to some essential medications and supplies. The pharmacy team at the nearby Walgreens, led by pharmacy manager Riley Frausto (right), stepped up without hesitation and worked with the CDC and the Red Cross to deliver the needed medications to them.
Additionally, health care supervisor Chris MacMillan worked with members of the Walgreens supply chain team and the CDC to provide 800 medical masks to those quarantined. These masks were difficult to find in the area, and other people involved had been desperately trying to find some in the area without success. The Walgreens team was able to secure the masks within 36 hours and provide them to the CDC, which quickly passed them onto the quarantined patients.
Earlier this month, Walgreens district manager Andrew Wiese (right) received an urgent phone call from a local hospital in Albany, Ga. Several patients with HIV were being quarantined there because of COVID-19 and desperately required HIV medications to continue their treatment – with serious complications possible if those medications didn’t arrive.
Fortunately, Walgreens operates several HIV-specialized pharmacies, along with other types of specialty pharmacies, in Georgia and the surrounding area. Wiese immediately contacted regional healthcare director Young Chang and asked the state health department for support to address regulatory and privacy issues. Together with specialty pharmacy manager Ashley Eschmann (second from left), who came to work during her time off, the team was able to transfer the prescriptions and dispense the medications to all 12 patients within a few hours.
The Aromatherapy Associates team, within Global Brands, has been thinking creatively, converting its sanitized labs in the London neighborhood of Brentford into production lines in order to continue providing its popular hand wash to customers during a time of heightened demand. Aromatherapy Associates CEO Anna Teal (pictured) literally rolled up her sleeves to support the effort.
“The team are understandably anxious during this period of time” said Teal, “but the feeling of teamwork and community among them is the best it has ever been. Everyone is helping each other, sharing jobs to ensure we do the best we can and at a time when we believe giving products which care for your wellbeing are important.”
The larger Global Brands team has been working hard in other ways to help meet the hygienic demands of the public. For example, it has been collaborating closely with the current supplier of Boots’ owned-brand antibacterial hand sanitizer, securing production of 1.4 million units to keep up with demand. The team is also working closely with suppliers to source alternative packaging components for items that are running low because of a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing. Additionally, the team sourced an extra 1 million units of a generic antibacterial hand sanitizer that’s due to be dispensed in April.
With many Alliance Healthcare markets in lockdown, drivers and warehouse operatives continue to put in enormous effort to help ensure a consistent supply of medicines to pharmacies, hospitals and patients. The crucial role these team members play in helping front-line colleagues provide health care to those who need it has become even more apparent in the last few weeks. In Germany, for example, many office-based workers have volunteered to join their warehouse colleagues.
In France, all commercial and administrative functions have also mobilized to help the warehouses for at least an initial two weeks and possibly longer.
The Alliance Healthcare team in the Netherlands put together hundreds of chocolate Easter egg packages – with notes of appreciation – to send to customers at local Boots and Alphega pharmacies and outpatient hospital pharmacies, as well as dispensing doctors. Colleagues from marketing, communications and account management at Boots and Alphega prepared the packages. The team’s hope is that the small gestures will go a long way toward brightening the days of busy pharmacy clients in these uncertain times, says Olga Scott, communications manager.
“Heading into work [last] Saturday, we all knew it would be a challenging day, looking after our customers and patients,” says Craig Wilkinson, general manager at a Boots store in Peterborough, England. “They were desperate to get antibacterial hand gel, hand wash, paracetamol (acetaminophen), cough and cold medication, tissues, wipes and children’s medicines, and were worried about what might be coming.”
By 10 a.m., Wilkinson had already reassigned one of two pharmacists on shift to help keep a nearby Boots store open. Five members of his team called out sick throughout the day. But the six who remained stepped up in a major way, working extra hard and keeping positive attitudes as the shelves emptied and challenges increased. Colleagues helped ensure their customers and patients got everything they needed during a short-staffed, high-pressure day – expecting it to be the first of many.
At the corporate level, Boots UK also supported National Health Service staff working on the front lines at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre – just 10 minutes from Boots headquarters – with a donation of more than 500 toiletries and hygiene products. The items, which arrived on March 25, included hundreds of tubes of toothpaste, bottles of shower gel, shampoos and deodorants to help ensure the health care workers have access to hygiene essentials between their busy shifts.
“During this time of unprecedented challenge for the team at Queen’s Medical Centre, we wanted to show our appreciation for the world-class care the NHS provides every single day for the people of Nottingham, many of whom are Boots colleagues and customers,” says Seb James, managing director at Boots.
These stories are just a handful among hundreds of thousands happening across the world. In simply doing their jobs, showing up to work and helping patients and customers get what they need, WBA employees are demonstrating everyday heroism, and their colleagues and communities are grateful for their contributions.