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07 June, 2015

11 Things to Know When Collecting Medication at Government Pharmacies

It has been some time since I have blogged and several incidence at work motivated me to write this article. As you may know, I am a government health clinic pharmacist and my job is awesome since I get paid to assist patients with their medications and change their lives for the better. At least that is what I work hard to do for my patients every day at my counter where tonnes of patients come and go. Some patients are nice and really appreciate my advice, however others whine about how long they have waited for the pharmacy staff to just pick medicines from shelves.

Trust me, I have visited the outpatient as a patient before countless times. I understand that the process from the start at the registration counter till the end at the pharmacy can be long and tedious. So I am here to help every patient to get the best service at a government pharmacy. I am talking about speed, efficiency and other services some might not know about. Here are the
11 Things to Know When Collecting Medication at Government Pharmacies

1: Check Prescription
A prescription slip is like an order made at a restaurant, the doctor lists all the medications you need for the pharmacy to prepare. Most of the time doctors will give you a complete prescription and everything will go well at the pharmacy. However occasionally during peak times, doctors do get confused and issue prescriptions that may not be yours. So remember to make sure the doctors got your name and identification right before you get the medications prepared at the pharmacy to reduce the hassle of getting the confusion sorted out.
2: Wait for your Number
Government pharmacies are like banks, we give different calling numbers for a variety of prescription types. That number sheet is very important because when your medication is ready, your number will be called. Please hold on to your number like you would in banks because if you do not come to the counter with that number sheet when your number is called, your number might be skipped after it has been called for 2-3 rounds. We also use the number to make sure the medication is really yours, so please present the number sheet when collecting your medication, It might not sound very serious at first but you might be given medication meant for another patient who happens to have the same name. I'm sure you know that it is very common to have similar names in Malaysia and could be dangerous.
3: May I know your Name please....
I am sure by now you have noticed a trend to identify the patient's identity in the first 2 steps and this is probably the most crucial. In many cases I have observed, patients are not always the ones collecting the medications at the counter. Sometimes the medications are collected by parents for a number of young children and we need to make sure correct medications are given to each child. So when we ask you for whom is this medication for, please make sure you can tell the full name of your child, father, mother, grandpa, grandma or whoever the prescription is for.

4: Is my prescription still Valid?
You might not know this before but every prescription has an "expiry date" or "duration of use". If you have seen a regular prescription, you will notice that there is a duration stated for the medications, that is its validity period. This is to inform the pharmacy how long you should be using the medications and to ensure timely follow-up checks with the doctor to monitor your progress for patients who have appointments. So do make sure you do not skip your appointments because we can't supply your medications with your old "expired" prescription anymore.
5: We give what the prescription tell us to
Pharmacy staff are trained to supply the medications as listed in the prescription prepared by the doctor. I have been told countless times to give additional antibiotics or cough syrups by patients and I have to deny all of them. It isn't that I am not willing to help, it is just that we pharmacists are not allowed to add or remove any medications to the prescription. Sometimes the doctor may think that a certain medication is unnecessary for you or maybe just forget to include that medication in the prescription. If you think there is/are some medications you need that are not listed in the prescription, you would have to see the doctor again.

6: One month supply only?
Yes, it is our standard practice in government pharmacies to give 1 month supply of medication and to give a date to collect your medication again next month, even if the prescription is valid for a longer period. You would need to present the prescription for subsequent supplies every month until the prescription "expires". Please do not request for 3-4 months supply just because you are unwilling to travel to the pharmacy monthly. We understand that it is inconvenient, but if the pharmacy provides additional supply to you and everyone else, we fear that we might not have sufficient stock to supply to all patients.
7: Collect your medication here only
If you recieved your prescription from a doctor at a particular hospital or clinic, please try not to use it at another clinic without telling the original pharmacy. If you walk into another clinic pharmacy to get your subsequent supply without prior arrangements, they will most likely give only a week supply. So do try to stick to the same pharmacy unless you are desperate. If you are moving out of town or if you wish to collect your medication nearer to your home, we do have a special service known as Sistem Pendispensan Ubat Bersepadu (SPUB) that can be arranged. More details on that in number 9.

8: What's taking so long?
At every government pharmacy we have a policy to supply medications to patients within 30 minutes. As I have mentioned previously, all prescriptions go through several rigorous processes in the pharmacy before medications are ready to be dispensed to patients and it takes time. We do our best to minimize errors and still prepare everything within the alloted time. Please be considerate and do not rush us if you have waited for 10-15 minutes! If you are in a hurry and do not have time to spare, you can consider number 9.

9: Try out some VAS
Apart from the usual dispensing, every government pharmacy also offer Value Added Services (VAS) that are designed for your convenience and to reduce waiting time. As mentioned in number 7, SPUB is a VAS designed to allow patients to collect their subsequent supply at another healthcare facility that is more convenient. Many of my patients opt for SPUB to collect their medication either nearer to their homes, nearer to their workplace or when they are moving out of town. All you need to do is to tell your pharmacist the place you want to collect your supply and you will receive an additional red stamp on your prescription. This stamp will indicate to the refered pharmacy that you have made prior arrangements and will be eligible for your standard supply.
Some government pharmacies also offer drive thru, postal services, SMS n Take and Telephone n Take. If you are interested, please check this LINK and enquire at the pharmacy.

10: Bring a Bag
Since 2012, the health ministry has been promoting the Green Earth campaign that aims to reduce the usage of plastic bags. All government pharmacies in Malaysia do not provide plastic bags even if you have a long list of medications, so I suggest bringing a big recyclable bag when collecting your medications for your convenience. You wouldn't want to be stuffing medication boxes into your little handbag or balancing them with just your hands.
11: It is Free!
Yes, you read it right, the medications are free. The only fee you pay in the hospital or clinic is at the registration counter for check-up, which is normally between RM1-15. There are no additional charges even if you are prescribed with more than 10 types of medications. So next time you collect your medications, you will notice that the medications do have pricetags on their label but you do not need to pay for them. They are there to let you know and appreciate how much the medications are actually worth. However foreigners are charged more during registration and will only be given 5 days supply of medication.

Next time you go to a government pharmacy, remember these 11 tips to have a nice experience collecting your medication. I hope I have made everything clear about our procedures and how you can get everything done quickly and conveniently. If you have any enquiries, please leave a comment below. Don't forget to SHARE this with your family and friends if you think this may be useful to them.

lalanandaFRY
7/6/15

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