Philadelphia pharmacy hand delivering medication for patients amid COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Yasmilette Mercado is putting her own health at risk everyday to hand deliver medication to her pharmacy's patients. She believes it's an essential service for her Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia.

"Right now there are no buses running, there are no buses running at all. Elderly people need their medicines to be delivered because they can't get to the pharmacy," said Mercado, who's a technician at Philadelphia Pharmacy at Front and Lehigh Avenue.

Owner Richard Ost says he upended his model when COVID-19 began to spread, going from 90 percent pickups to 90 percent deliveries. Ost is offering the extra service for free.

"I really feel like it's time for me as a person to give back to the neighborhood for the 36 years they've given me to be here," said Ost.

The pharmacy is doing about 150 deliveries per day around Kensington and the Northeast neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Mercado says, one of the important things she makes sure to do is hand off the medication directly to the patient, rather than leave it on their doorstep.

"I heard so many stories about people dropping off the medicine on their steps and someone just walking by and taking their medicine. So we don't want that to happen to our patients," said Mercado.
While probably saving lives, Ost is also risking the livelihood of his own pharmacy. Between the added help of delivery drivers, need for PPE, and lower drug reimbursements from the state that started before the pandemic, he's facing a harsh reality.

"We're losing money right now just to service our community," he said. "Because I've been here so long and we care about the community, my wife and I look at it as a charitable donation back to the community for saying: 'thank you for being there for us and allowing us to serve you.'"

The pharmacy says it's also partnering with other independent pharmacies to expand delivery service to anyone who needs it. Customers call call at hotline at 215-934-9412.

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