Independent pharmacy owners working around the clock

Roger Paganelli, owner of Mt. Carmel Pharmacy, discusses COVID testing at pharmacies
.Photo courtesy Alabastro Photography.

While people are working from home, laid off or furloughed, many were deemed essential and are required to say on the job.

One of those is Roger Paganelli, who is a third generation pharmacist and owns Mt. Carmel Pharmacy, 705 East 187th with his two brothers Michael and Armando. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, pharmacies are making special accommodations to deal with this escalating situation, including:

  • Offering curbside prescription pickup so patients don’t have to get out of their cars.
  • Waiving prescription delivery fees.
  • Offering pill packaging (individually packaging each day’s medications for patients) for patients whose caretakers can’t be in contact with them.

“It’s been challenging for us,” Paganelli said. “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated what we’re experiencing here.”

His grandfather, Armando owned a pharmacy at 151 and Morris and his father followed in his footsteps when he opened Mt. Carmel in 1964. In 1991, Paganelli and his brothers purchased it from him.

Paganelli, 56, explained that typically their business is prescriptions, but with so many stores shuttered, people are buying basic things like batteries and baby oil.

“People are coming in here for everything,” he said.

In order to keep his customers and staff safe and healthy, they have instituted new protocols. The store is wiped down hourly, all staff and customers must wear gloves and masks, there is signage on the front of the store, there is a kiosk outside where people can pick up and order medicine, and the hours changed from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“My staff and I took every bit of guidance from the governor, mayor and CDC from day one,” Paganelli said. “We felt it was important to limit the exposure of the customers and workers.”

He acknowledged that it is a big risk being open. He is on the board of the Pharmacists Society of NY and has been in constant contact with fellow pharmacists.

“It’s a decision that we made, but we didn’t make or take lightly,” he explained. “We’ve heard the good, the bad and the ugly from our colleagues.”

In his near 30 years in the business, he has witnessed Hurricane Sandy, the recession and 9/11, but none are comparable to the coronavirus.

“Seeing people walk around wearing masks and gloves and dying at a unconscionable rate is unheard of,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” he stated. “9/11 had a catastrophic impact. It changed the world as we know it.”

Looking to the future, he recognizes some businesses may never recover from being closed for a few months.

“This is something that is incredibly scary,” Paganelli said.

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