At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked full time as a locum community pharmacist on top of my university studies, as this felt the right thing to do. I worked six days a week, pouring my heart into providing for the community while living in fear of falling ill and infecting my loved ones.
Everybody reacted to the pandemic at their own pace and at the beginning, things were rather wobbly. At the time, I was surprised by the lack of measures in place especially for locums. Since we work in multiple locations, compulsory PPE measures would have seemed the right thing to implement during this emergency.
PPE was not always available, but when it was, I would get stuck in just like the regular staff, never thinking I was doing wrong. Why would I? A locum is part of the team and, in a pharmacy, you share all sorts – whether it is tears, hobnobs or teabags.
After 10 weeks of absolute madness, I received an email apparently sent from Rowlands Pharmacy directed to all their locums and it was not exactly an acknowledgment of my hard work. I was being told that I must wear PPE that the company won't provide for us and that failure to come to work with my own PPE would lead to my bookings being cancelled.
Was I reading properly? This felt like a kick in the teeth. Had I received an email at the onset of COVID-19 warning me to wear my own PPE due to limited supplies, I would have understood. But at that point, not only was I being denied the access to protective equipment, I was also being threatened with loss of work if I didn’t cooperate.
Naturally, I wanted to adhere to what the email seemed to say was the company’s code of conduct, that’s what locums do. We stick to the rules, the company’s services and with a smile, please. Next time I shall also bring my own teabags and toilet roll and save the company some money. Jokes aside, this is very concerning as I provide the same service to patients as a pharmacist contracted by Rowlands, so why should I be treated differently?
The company has since clarified that it does not expect locums to provide their own PPE, but I am afraid the damage was already done. The locum profession is being devalued and it is a shame thar we were treated this way. I wonder how many more locums must have felt the same.
In June, Rowlands clarified that locums would not have to provide their own PPE. Rowlands told C+D on June 8 that there had been some "confusion" over its stance. “All colleagues working in our pharmacies – which of course includes locums - have full access to PPE in line with Government and regulatory advice," a spokesperson said.