JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores here sent two retrofitted mobile homes to Louisiana last week as temporary replacements for in-store pharmacies damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Each mobile unit has a waiting area for customers, a restroom and a pharmacy area fully stocked with prescriptions, and "will be just like our in-store pharmacies," said Terry Derreberry, Winn-Dixie spokeswoman.
"This is just one way we can help bring back a semblance of normalcy to this area," she said.
One mobile unit set up shop in the parking lot of a closed store in Slidell, La. The second unit was transported to a store site in Kenner, La., which is in the Jefferson Parish of New Orleans, according to the retailer.
Derreberry told SN that the regular pharmacists and pharmacy technicians from the two closed stores are staffing these temporary pharmacies.
"You never want to let one of your customers go to another pharmacy. It just makes good sense to exhaust all means to keep your customers at home," said Bill Fisher, vice president of pharmacy for Winn-Dixie.
While the Slidell mobile unit will service the pharmacy customers from that particular store, the site in New Orleans is likely to service customers from four or five area stores, Derreberry said.
Bringing in temporary pharmacies is a smart move in terms of business and community relations, said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill.
"There are a lot of people in the area with limited mobility who are hard-pressed to get their medications, and Winn-Dixie is stepping to the table as a business to do what it can for customers," Wisner said. There is also a chance that the pharmacy business in the area could go elsewhere "if there are other ways and means to access medications," he said.
Winn-Dixie's concept of temporary pharmacies was not specifically in response to a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, Derreberry said. It was originally conceived as a way to service pharmacy customers of any store undergoing a remodel.
"We had been formulating this idea for quite some time," Derreberry said. When Katrina made landfall along the central Gulf Coast in late August, the retailer moved forward with a plan to get provisional pharmacies out to two centrally located stores as quickly as possible.
Mobile pharmacies will likely become even more common in the future, Fisher said. "Dropping a mobile pharmacy in front of a damaged store or one undergoing a major remodel is a relatively inexpensive way to keep your pharmacy business intact. It just makes good sense."
Other chains such as CVS/pharmacy, Woonsocket, R.T.; Rite Aid, Camp Hill, Pa.; Walgreens, Deerfield, Ill.; and Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., also have sent mobile pharmacy units to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.