The eyes: A window to the soul

Communication is key in navigating the pandemic, writes Angelo Pricolo

If road rules and parking restrictions are a window into a society and its flexibility (see my recent column ‘La Tolleranza‘) then the eyes are a window into the soul.

The face masks we all need to wear may hinder and compromise our normal function as well as being uncomfortable, but at least the eyes are free to communicate.

Eyes communicate by staying focused and interested, because when they stray it usually means we are not paying attention. We can use our eyes to tell people we are listening. Although holding eye contact too long can embarrass some people, so be careful to use your gaze to best effect, not to threaten.

An eye can threaten like a loaded and levelled gun; or can insult like hissing and kicking; or in its altered mood, by beams of kindness, make the heart dance with joy.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is time to encourage all to be compliant with the mask and not complain about the mask. Our lead is important and the message we send can influence others to do the right thing.

Pharmacy again has been at the forefront of community health and reliably, supplying countless masks, gloves and hand sanitisers in a timely manner. Responding to demand and the changing face of this outrageously contagious virus we have been able to remain nimble. We continue to do our day job and keep on adding services and products.

The beauty of pharmacy is the 6,000 strong network across the country and the health professionals accessible and ready to answer the questions, provide the service and the products. The growth in the number of deliveries has been exponential and it has serviced the needy, the infected and sometimes just the lazy. How many pharmacists and assistants have done deliveries on the way home or on their lunch breaks?

The Guild has been vigilant and constantly advocating to Government the important role that pharmacists have played over the past few months. PHNs have recently been more inclusive in their thinking as have the Heath Ministers and Premiers. This recognition is important both morally for the profession and staff we employ but it also goes a long way to ensuring we are not forgotten when essential PPE is distributed. This is particularly relevant in Victoria at the moment.

We are fortunate to have a supportive federal government so that even though each jurisdiction is at a different place in this fight we have a common theme. Spare a thought for the situation in America where state governors run a state-driven response.

The state governor decides if everyone must stay home ‘shelter in place’ and the President could vehemently oppose this. It would feel more like 50 states with 50 epidemics rather than one pandemic.

Back home some of the difficulties that have arisen since the COVID-19 era have revolved around our relationship with GPs. Faxes and emails are sometimes followed by mailed prescriptions, but not always. In fact, with new legislation in place, scripts that are not required are sometimes arriving in the mail a month after already being dispensed. Sometimes it’s just doctors not wanting to take the responsibility to store the scripts for the mandatory period (like we do).

The inconsistent flow of information without real consideration needs to be addressed. Asking patients to pick up the script and deliver it is unreliable and sometimes risky. Asking the pharmacy to provide a stamped self-addressed envelope is outrageous, demoralising and absurdly selfish by GPs.

While wearing a face mask and attempting to communicate as best we can with our eyes (and a bit of gesticulating for us of European extraction) it is the communication with other health professionals that can either make life easier or harder. More importantly it can improve outcomes for patients or make their lives harder and hence put their health at risk.

Angelo Pricolo is an addiction medicine pharmacist and former National Councillor of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

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