After weeks of promises and increased responsibility, Alberta pharmacists on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 are still waiting for shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The PPE was promised by the province weeks ago, but hundreds of facilities and thousands of pharmacists are still waiting for added gloves and masks.

For many, an increased workload thanks to new provincial rules has meant added patient load during the pandemic. 

“We tend to see a lot of people who have questions about what to do and about how they can prepare, said Luke’s Drug Mart Pharmacy manager David Brewerton. “They may have been trying to call 811 and they can’t get through, so they call us and come in and see us.”

“It would be really nice if we had the availability just to keep everyone protected.”

On March 19, the province announced screening would now be allowed inside pharmacies.

Workers say they were already taking on an added workload due to hospital and clinic spillover.

“(There’s a) lot more phone calls with doctors and patients adding on delivery volume,” Brewerton said. “We’re trying to make sure we have (medication) and can get it out.“

The UCP and AHS announced 1,470 pharmacies will receive a total of 147,000 masks and 2.4 million gloves this week. The Alberta Pharmacists’ Association tells CTV News it was informed yesterday that approximately 200 PPE orders have been shipped to pharmacies and the remaining 1,270 will be shipped out over the next few days.

But many pharmacists say they won’t believe it until they see it.

One told CTV News she felt forgotten.

When asked if he felt vulnerable on the job, Brewerton said yes. “I don’t think there’s any pharmacists that haven’t.”

For now, a thin plexiglass shield is all that separates him from his patients.

“We don’t know if they have it or not,” he said.

CTV News knows of two pharmacists who have contracted the virus. There may be more, but Alberta Health says issues at one of its reporting stations Thursday have delayed some results.

Pharmacists also say they’re short on another critical item: medication.

Drug shortages that have been prevalent for years have been amplified by the COVID-19 outbreak.

A spokesperson for the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association says the “pandemic has placed additional strain on an already fragile medication supply chain in Canada,” pointing at slowed production in places like China and India.