What is the measure for pregnant women working in pharmacies?
Open Letter addressing the situation
Article published on 31 March 2020
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Sophie Châtillon, a pregnant pharmacist, spoke to CHIP 101.9 to explain the situation she is currently facing and what she has experienced at work during this COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with CHIP 101.9, she denounced the fact that there was no recommendation concerning pregnant women in this situation.

Her intervention was well received by her peers, but Sophie Châtillon said she hopes that there will be measures put in place for this type of situation in the future.

The interview with Sophie Châtillon is available here.

Letter writen by Sophie Châtillon

‘A Mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.’ –Agatha Christie

Sir, Madam,

My name is Sophie Châtillon and I’m a pregnant pharmacist currently living with the uncertainty created by this pandemic, as thousands of Quebecers are. But before all else, I am a mother. I am a mother to a beautiful 14 month-old son named Arlo and I am a mother to a little girl who is due in August. I am writing to you today in despair, as I have exhausted all options available to me and I need your help in order to overcome what obstacles remain in my path.

The reality faced by pharmacists during this pandemic is very misunderstood by the population of Quebec. As soon as our doors open, our pharmacy is flooded with patients who, for the most part, present with flu symptoms, have returned from traveling without self-quarantining, or who have come into possible contact with COVID-19 and then chose to refuse to self-quarantine, falsely believing that coming into the pharmacy presents no danger for society. As pharmacists are the most accessible health care professionals, we remain available to help our patients, even if these patients don’t respect the precautionary measures repeated time and time again by our Government and by Public Health Officials. Each day, we put our health as well as the health of our families at risk. To make matters worse, gloves, hand sanitizer and masks are very hard to come by these days, even for us. Day after day, we show up to the frontline, ready for battle, with, for most of us, nothing but our white coat to protect us. Our innate desire and duty to help our patients gives us the courage we need to get through our hectic work days. As you can understand, working under these stressful conditions as we try to fight against our enemy, the coronavirus, takes a toll on us mentally and physically. This stress is further amplified when you are also pregnant and responsible for protecting the very fragile life that you are carrying inside of you against this potentially lethal enemy. As a mother, I will go to the ends of this earth to protect this little being that I love so much already without having yet met her. This is why I am asking for your help.

After numerous calls with Public Health Officials and CNESST with the goal of trying to make my worries known, I am repeatedly being told that there is no danger for employees working in community pharmacies and that we are “not at the mercy of the coronavirus.” I find this extremely hard to believe as I know firsthand that patients are not respecting the precautionary guidelines put into place. Currently, pregnant pharmacists are not eligible for preventative leave to ensure their safety along with that of their unborn child’s, as Public Health firmly believes that we are not in danger while working in a pharmacy. However, when a patient came to me today asking me to advise her on a cough syrup to treat her cough and fever, how can I be certain that she was not infected with coronavirus? When I walked with her in the over-the-counter aisle to discuss different treatment options and she didn’t stand one meter away from me and she reached out to touch my arm, how can I be certain that community transmission of COVID-19 did not just occur? The answer is that there is no way of knowing and, therefore, telling me that I am not at risk of contracting the virus while working is simply a lie.

In addition, I’ve been told, “with certainty,” that the coronovirus poses no risk for me, or for my precious baby. However, the latest document published by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ) ‘COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2): Interim Recommendations on preventatives work measures for pregnant or breastfeeding workers’ states otherwise. Although there is limited information available at this time, the literature reports that there have been unfavorable pregnancy outcomes related to the coronavirus. These negative outcomes include premature rupture of the membranes, neonatal mortality as well as neonatal respiratory distress at birth.

Although the risk of vertical (mother-to-infant) transmission is still under investigation by the INSPQ, The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) declared on March 13th, 2020 that:

- Due to physiologic changes that occur in pregnancy, when compared with their non-pregnant counterparts, pregnant women with lower respiratory tract infections often experience worse outcomes, including higher rates of hospital and intensive care unit admission.

The SOGC also mentioned that:
- Given the limited data, it is too early to determine if higher rates of adverse outcomes are expected in pregnant women infected with COVID-19.

When in doubt, why not act with utmost caution and immediately remove pregnant pharmacists from potentially dangerous work environments? The risk of contracting COVID-19 is clearly increased for us, given the close contact that we have with sick patients on a daily basis. It is impossible to know with 100% certainty that a pregnant mother infected with the virus will not suffer unfavorable outcomes. What are our Government, our Health Minister as well as Public Health Officials waiting for before making changes to the current guidelines for working pregnant health care workers? Please help me shed light on this very important matter before it is too late. Maybe with your voice, we will finally be heard.

Thank you in advance for your collaboration in this matter,
Sophie Châtillon, pharmacist

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