2021-5-13

The Pharmacy Connection

South Hill, VA (5/11/21) – VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) has offered a medication assistance program since 2003. This valuable service is given at no cost to qualifying patients with little to no insurance. The Pharmacy Connection is part of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital's commitment to the citizens of the communities they serve.

To honor that commitment, they’ve just hired a new Medication Enrollment Coordinator, serving as a liaison between drug manufacturers, physicians and qualifying patients. Meet Kim Bannister, LH, PC Agent, of Skipwith. She’s always had a job in the medical field. She spent 11 years in the military medical corps. She sold health insurance for 15 years and then worked for the Southside Health District for another 10 years as the Medical Reserve Coordinator. She worked closely with VCU Health CMH during her time at the health department and remembers referring clients to the Pharmacy Connection program. Because of the time she spent in other people’s homes selling insurance, she understands the hardships people face, having to choose between paying the heating bill or paying for medications.

Kim has two daughters who are married, one grandson, and another grandchild on the way. She enjoys sports and has spent years umpiring and coaching baseball and softball. She still volunteers for the medical reserve corps with disaster relief and provides training about infection prevention for churches, nursing homes and day cares.

How does The Pharmacy Connection work?

VCU Health CMH's Pharmacy Connection utilizes software provided through the Virginia Health Care Foundation that includes information on more than 7,000 medications. Many prescription drug manufacturers have patient assistance programs for uninsured, low-income patients. This software helps the patient cut through the red tape reducing time, assisting with applications, eligibility, tracking, refills, reports and ultimately helping more low-income, chronically-ill patients get the medications they need to stay healthy. Most patients get the medications at a reduced rate or at no cost to them up to one year and then they have to reapply, and the Pharmacy Connection helps them do that.

Eligibility is based on household income and pharmaceutical manufacturers’ guidelines.  The Virginia Health Care Foundation has a special category of grants for medication assistance called RxRelief Virginia, which is available because of an appropriation from Virginia’s Governor and General Assembly. In FY20, RxRelief Virginia helped 12,063 uninsured Virginians from 75 localities obtain $104 million in free, or low-cost medicines and supplies utilizing only $1.6 million in state funds.

All of the major classes of medication are included, covering chronic diseases ranging from diabetes to hypertension, clinical depression to asthma and more. Since its 1997 launch, The Pharmacy Connection has generated more than $6.3 billion in free medications for more than 351,000 sick, uninsured Virginians via more than 5.3 million prescriptions. Visit www.vhcf.org for more information.

How do I know if I qualify?

While there are general income guidelines, many manufacturers qualify patients on a case-by-case basis.

Who do I call?

VCU Health CMH's Pharmacy Connection is administered through the CMH Foundation. Patients can be referred by their primary care physician. The number for patients to call for more information or to schedule an appointment is (434) 447-0856. The Pharmacy Connection is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. by appointment only.

Howard Rogers Cannon

May 12, 1950 ~ May 11, 2021

Howard Rogers "Roger" Cannon, age 70, passed away following a period of declining health. He was born in Roanoke Rapids, NC and grew up in Emporia, Virginia; the devoted son of William Howard and Edith Rogers Cannon. He served proudly in the United States Army during the Vietnam era and continued to be a strong and unwavering Patriot until his death. He is survived of his wife of 45 years, Amy Zaruba Cannon; two sisters, Ruth Furbee of Montclair, Virginia and DeEtte Wirtanen of Parker, Colorado; his son, Brian and wife, Kelly; two grandchildren, Bennett and Kathryn. He leaves nieces, Angi Williams, Mikhel Wirtanen, Sarah Brogan, Emily Zaruba, Danielle Duerr and Katie Sherron; nephews, Scott Furbee, Mark and Stephen Zaruba; sisters-in-law, Beth Riffe and Cindy Zaruba and a devoted brother-in-law, Mark N. Zaruba Sr.; as well as other extended family members. He is also survived by dear friends, Lawrence and Brooke Hettinger and lifelong friend, Bob Ranson. Roger retired from United Parcel Service after 33 years of dedication. While in his 50's he found what he always wanted to do and took up skydiving. His greatest thrill was jumping out of a perfectly good airplane and enjoyed introducing friends and family to the sport. At his request, there will be no memorial service   but, donations to his favorite charity, Shriners Hospitals for Children, P.O. Box 1525, Ranson, WV 25498, or a charity of your choice would be welcome. Online condolences may be registered at www.ealvinsmall.com.

Virginia restaurants face new challenges at brink of full reopening

By Christina Amano Dolan, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia restaurants will soon be able to host more patrons, but establishments may not be able to accommodate more guests due to a shortage in workers. 

Restaurants and drinking establishments will be able to seat up to 100 patrons indoors and a maximum of 250 guests outdoors starting May 15, Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced.

Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, estimated around 100 Richmond restaurants closed last year, but said there have been minimal closures this year. Many restaurants are likely nearing 80% of their pre-pandemic revenue levels, according to Terry. 

While full recovery for the industry is underway, Terry said the biggest revenue factor for restaurants is a restricted labor force. 

“I was on the phone yesterday with two restaurant operators who said they are having to close two days a week because they can’t get enough staff,” Terry said. 

The new limit will double the number of indoor guests allowed as of April 1. Restaurants may return to selling alcohol past midnight and dining room closures between midnight and 5 a.m. will no longer be required. 

Northam announced last week that all restrictions will be lifted on June 15 if the number of new COVID-19 cases remains low and COVID-19 vaccinations rise. On Monday, the state reported the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in a year. 

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June,” Northam recently said.

However, if seating capacity is extended fully in June, restaurants with limited staff will not be able to accommodate that many people, Terry said. 

“Unless we can get more folks to come back to work, it’s going to be tough,” Terry said. “The extended unemployment, child care issues and other things have made it very difficult to get people back into the industry.” 

Michael Nelson, manager of The Sidewalk Cafe in Richmond, said restaurants around the city struggled to find enough workers after losing valuable staff. Bartenders, cooks and others moved away from the industry and changed professions when the pandemic hit, Nelson said.

The Virginia accommodation and food services industry lost almost 60,000 workers from March 2020 to March 2021, according to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission (a 17% job loss). The figures are seasonally adjusted, meaning they account for seasonal fluctuations in the labor market.

Northam’s executive orders closed indoor dining areas in 2020 from late March to at least early June, though Richmond and Northern Virginia waited an additional two weeks before moving into phase two. Many restaurants voluntarily closed for extended periods. 

“Even when the governor says you’re able to have full capacity, I can see a lot of restaurants not going back to that because they just don’t have the staff,” Nelson said. 

Jeremy Barber, owner of three Alexandria-based restaurants, said that while staffing challenges are temporary, restaurants may hesitate to fully open indoor seating.

“I think that people are still going to be more comfortable dining outside,” Barber said. “Even people that I've talked to that are vaccinated and have eaten in restaurants still say they have an eerie feeling when they are dining indoors.”

Barber believes it will take time for the restaurant industry to fully recover. 

“Restaurateurs as well as guests need to work together to adapt to the new dining out,” Barber said. “It’ll be a true sign at the end of the summer to see how things are really progressing.”

More than 35% of Virginians are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Over 47% the state’s population has received at least one dose. 

More than 6.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the state, according to VDH.

“I hope that we’re on the brink of getting over this thing,” Barber said. “But I think as a business owner, it’s our responsibility to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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