January 23rd, 2021

Local pharmacies answer the call for COVID-19 testing

By Jensen, Randy on August 25, 2020.

Vishal Sukhadiya, pharmacist and owner of The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, performs a throat swab on Suketu Shah at the pharmacy. Herald photo by Dale Woodard

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald


Since offering free COVID-19 testing over a month ago, The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy has seen over 2,500 patients come through the door.

With school right around the corner and the flu season just beyond that, the pharmacy, located at 1016A 20 St. S., wants to get the word out that not only are the free tests still being offered, it’s also easy to sign up for the free throat swab that takes all of 30 seconds out of your day.

“It will go on and we encourage people to get themselves tested regularly, especially when they are in a high-risk environment,” said Medicine Shoppe pharmacist and owner Vishal Sukhadiya.

With the flu season beckoning, Sukhadiya stressed spreading the word to seniors to take advantage of the free service and come in and be tested.

“We want to protect our vulnerable population, especially when the flu season is coming,” he said. “Every year, around 3,500 Canadians die by the flu. So we certainly don’t want that on top of COVID to be a cause.”

The Medicine Shoppe began offering the free tests July 11 as part of a provincial pilot project involving 25 pharmacies across the province.

Sukhadiya noted an extremely low percentage of positive results.

“Out of the 2,500, three came back positive,” he said. “They are all doing well now. But we can see people are vigilant. Last week we tested a lot of teachers and school staff. We’re giving the first priority to them right now because we want our kids to be safe.”

Sukhadiya said he expected to test between 700 and 800 patients in a month’s span.

“But it just jumped, especially in the last couple of weeks because school is starting. So in the last couple of weeks we have seen a very high demand for the testing.”

Sukhadiya noted family members getting tested prior to visiting older relatives as a precaution.

“They want themselves to be tested just to be on the safe side.”

Sukhadiya said he’s noticed people taking the pandemic more seriously now than when he started offering the free tests, which are strictly throat swabs.

“Initially when I started testing in July I observed they were not taking it seriously. So to make our facility safe and to promote more safe practices we have made masks mandatory in our store and also social distancing. Now I’m seeing this month it’s changing a lot.”

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy’s online booking platform has been a popular tool.

“We see that about 25 per cent of our appointments come from Facebook,” said Sukhadiya. “We are using social media and people are welcoming it. We prefer people fill out the online form just to reduce any paper exchange. It literally takes 30 seconds. They come into the store, we ask them if they filled out the form online and if the online form is done I take them back to the consultation room and we get them tested. It takes less than 30 seconds.”

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy’s work since early-July hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Last week, the pharmacy was the recipient of the Community Heroes Award, given by conservative MP Rachael Harder, for their work helping first responders, firefighters and transit drivers.

Following is a list of Lethbridge pharmacies offering COVID-19 testing as listed on the Alberta Blue Cross website https://www.ab.bluecross.ca/news/asymptomatic-testing.php:

– London Drugs, 65-1240 2A Ave. N., 403-320-8899

– Medicine Shoppe, 1016a 20 St. S., 403-380-3282

– Real Canadian Superstore, 3515 Mayor Magrath Dr. S., 403-331-2535

– Rexall, 12 Aquitania Blvd. W. Unit 20, 587-486-9357

– Save-On Foods, 45 1240 2A Ave. N., 403-380-6400

– Shoppers Drug Mart, 380 University Drive W., 403-380-3057

– Shoppers Drug Mart, 3071 26 Ave. N., 403-320-1470

– Shoppers Drug Mart, 110 Columbia Blvd. W., 403-381-1777

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