Note: This is the first in a month-long series of articles honoring Hometown Heroes in Magee and Mendenhall, Mississippi. Today’s article features McGuffee’s Drugs in Mendenhall.
McGuffee’s Drugs has long been known for taking care of its patients and customers. With the onset of coronavirus procedures in mid March, owners Josh Pierce, Pharm. D., and Kristi Welch, Pharm. D., never closed the doors; they simply revamped their way of doing business to meet customer needs.
From March 23 to May 4, 2020, McGuffee’s Drugs provided the same services available inside the store – from filling prescriptions to purchasing gifts to bill pay – by way of drive thru, curbside or automobile delivery. During the entire period of the state wide shelter in place order, the store maintained its regular hours along with emergency service when required without missing a beat. “Weekends, holidays, … it’s something we offer that others don’t. It’s something that’s needed,” explained Welch.
There was some concern that the drive thru might overwhelm the employees, but Pierce said, “People were very understanding. It wasn’t a problem getting people to loop around while we’d fill their prescriptions so we could help the next two, three or four cars in line.”
McGuffee’s has always offered delivery service at no charge, but use has nearly doubled in the last two to three months. Most days two people are available to deliver between 1:30 p.m. and closing.
The delivery area is wide and varied: to the north Florence, southward including Georgetown, New Hebron and even farther – Hazlehurst, Wesson, and Brookhaven; and east towards Raleigh and Mize. Deliveries are made daily to Magee.
Pierce gives praise to God for sustaining the business throughout the last several months. “The Lord’s been good to us here. There were times of concern when it all started, uncertainty, what would happen in the future, but up to this point we’ve been mighty blessed. Thank the Lord none of the employees have missed a paycheck.”
Some employees also had to be out during this time due to personal reasons including two who required testing. Both tests were negative.
When McGuffee’s went to outside sales only “our gift department went to a screeching halt,” Pierce explained. However, once the doors reopened people began returning, 15 to 30 customers a day during the first week. However, on a typical day prior to all the changes customers numbered in the hundreds. Currently, they are seeing 50-60% of the previous customer base. And business has been rebounding especially with Mother’s Day and graduation season.
McGuffee’s is also the only pharmacy in Simpson County offering compounding services, which is a lot like making brownies, said Pierce. Welch began making hand sanitizer soon after the shelter in place began as the product could not be found on store shelves. She began initially supplying it to first responders but now McGuffee’s make and sells their own using alcohol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and essential oil.
Additionally Pierce offered his insight into possible healthcare changes occurring in the future. “A lot of research goes into access to care. Nationwide we have a shortage of providers. A lot of people want to plug pharmacists in to fill that void. Not so much in our area but drive two hours to the Delta there are several counties that don’t have a provider.”
He added that while typically a person sees their primary care provider only three to four times a year, he/she will visit their pharmacist 35 times annually. “That’s ten times the access there. They don’t have to call and make an appointment. We’re here to answer questions any time. I think that’s going to be important in our healthcare system as a whole moving forward.”
Pharmacies can also provide testing for flu and strep, vaccinations, and blood tests including cholesterol, blood sugar, A1C, and INR for patients taking Coumadin. McGuffee’s is able to perform the Covid 19 antibody test, but at this point they choose not to do so. “We don’t do it because we haven’t found a test that we are comfortable with; it’s way too expensive to justify paying for it or it’s only 50% accurate,” Pierce commented.
There is a major drawback, however, to these tests performed in the pharmacy as insurance companies refuse to pay the pharmacies. “Hopefully that’s something that will come down the road. That’s the kind of stuff that will really take the burden off of the doctors. They get overwhelmed with this kind of illness when they need to be taking care of your diabetes, heart disease, the more complicated health issues,” Pierce added.
“McGuffee’s Drugs has been here since 1961. From day one when Mr. McGuffee opened then and still stands today, taking care of our customers is what we’re here to do, regardless of what it requires to get that done. We’re living in a scary world, there’s no doubt about it. Outside of covid there’s other things that are scary about this world that we’re living in but… I know we shut our doors and went drive thru only for protection purposes but at the end of the day we’re here to take care of people. If that requires us putting ourselves in a little bit of danger – that’s what we signed up for when we took that oath at graduation. That’s what we’re here for and that’s what we’ll always be here to do; we’re going to take care of people regardless of what we have to do to get that done.”