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Opening a Long-Term Care Pharmacy Mid-Pandemic


December 22, 2020

By Jenna Merchant, Owner, Liberty Drug

Jenna Merchant is the owner and manager of Liberty Drug LLC, an independent, family-owned pharmacy in Murray, Utah. Long-term care (LTC) pharmacies have not only been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they're also finding ways to thrive. Liberty Drug in Murray, Utah, is just one example. Owner Jenna Merchant shares how the store opened amid the pandemic and has managed to grow faster than they ever expected.

The decision to invest in a long-term care pharmacy was a natural one for my sister and me. We grew up in the industry, with our dad owning and running a successful LTC pharmacy for twenty years. We watched and learned from him as we grew up, which helped shape how we run our business today—we saw first-hand the importance of valuing relationships with every nurse and administrator as well as those forged with employees. Our dad was an amazing pharmacist in charge, and we knew we wanted to follow in his footsteps.

Our path to long-term care pharmacy ownership was also motivated by the growing needs of the aging population and the steadily increasing demand for LTC services. The Baby Boom generation is anticipated to drive a 50% increase in the number of older Americans (ages 65+) requiring some form of long-term care, reaching an estimated 1.9 million individuals over the next 10 years.1 With this growth in demand, LTC pharmacies have an opportunity to assume a larger role in patient care. Amid the pandemic, it became even clearer how necessary that care was for our community, which led us to open our doors in May of 2020.

The pandemic undoubtedly created challenges for our staff and our business, but it also reinforced that our work has never been more critical. We had to quickly prioritize the health of our staff and put plans in place to mitigate the risk of exposure. When someone believes they have been exposed, they stop coming to work and get tested immediately. In Utah, this often means at least three days go by before receiving a positive or negative test result. In these instances, employees have willingly quarantined and stayed home from work in order to avoid potentially spreading the virus to other staff members or customers. We are so grateful for our amazing employees, who instantly stepped into this heightened role and have remained dedicated to the health of our community despite obstacles.

But, the most difficult aspect of the pandemic has been helping our customers—particularly nursing homes—manage the challenges of the illness. We have stayed in constant contact with our customers and their nursing teams to understand their needs, so we can provide the support and products required to continue delivering best-in-class care despite these turbulent times. We’ve also benefited from a strong and communicative relationship with our distribution partner, AmerisourceBergen, which has provided us with reliable delivery and valuable services to improve our interactions with customers.  LTC facilities need a trusted, collaborative partner now more than ever, and we are committed to helping in every way we can.

In response to our customers’ needs, we have updated emergency kits in case of supply chain disruptions to ensure facilities can still access critical products for their patients. We have also contracted with a local distillery to deliver hand sanitizer, and even forged relationships with local janitorial supply companies to secure the cleaning products our customers need to keep staff and patients safe.

Despite opening our business during a global pandemic, Liberty Drug has managed to grow and thrive thanks to our strong relationships with our customers, distributor and community. As the pandemic continues, we will continue to build on these relationships to show our customers that we are here for them, no matter what. Our goal is to help keep Utah healthy, both during the pandemic and beyond, and we are incredibly proud of how the community has come together to protect and care for patients in need.

Jenna Merchant is the owner and manager of Liberty Drug LLC, an independent, family-owned pharmacy in Murray, Utah.  Liberty Drug provides pharmaceutical goods and services to Skilled Nursing Centers, Assisted Living Communities, LTAC Units, Specialty Care Centers, Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Group Homes, Youth Treatment, and Drug Rehabilitation Centers along the Intermountain West.

Reference:

  1. Population Reference Bureau. Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States. https://www.prb.org/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet/. July 15, 2019. Accessed December 2020.

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