Local pharmacy owner Kirk Lycett was recently handed a tough pill to swallow.
For more than 50 years, Bridgetown Pharmasave has provided the nearby Mountain Lea Lodge nursing home with pharmacy services. But that will soon change.
“There's been a lot of sleepless nights in the last couple of weeks just trying to run through the mind of what the possibilities and chances are and, if it doesn't go as hoped, what (I'm) going to have to do,” said Lycett in an interview Feb. 17.
“This is a major shift.”
He estimates that the client base from Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation's Mountain Lea Lodge, Willow Vale Supervised Apartments and The Meadows Community properties accounts for roughly 12 per cent of his overall pharmacy sales.
On Feb, 15, he received word that Bridgetown Pharmasave's proposal was not the successful bid in a recent tender competition held to award a new contract. As it stands, Lycett said this means Pharmasave's longstanding service arrangement with the local nursing home ends April 1.
“It will definitely impact staffing levels here... we're going to have to make some tough decisions going forward on cutting of expenses and, of course, the biggest expense to any business is staff,” said Lycett, describing the potential for staff reductions as a “devastating” turn of events.
“We're family,” he added.
Lycett said his business is not the only entity that will feel the impact of the local pharmacy losing the contract with the local nursing home and related properties. He suspects the results will be more far reaching than those behind the decision realize.
“If we have to reduce staffing levels, that's more people unemployed, that's money that's not in the economy of Annapolis County,” he said.
“It definitely will affect the town and the immediate area, now and in the future.”
As a local developer with multiple businesses tied to the Pharmasave operation, Lycett said things like future developments, as well as sponsorships or donations for community groups and causes, all stand to be adversely impacted if he has to cut costs to make up for the loss of such a substantial contract.
“It is a big impact dollar-wise and it will have ramifications, and a ripple effect throughout the community.”
Lycett is waiting on a written explanation from Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation that explains why the decision to go with another provider was made. He’s concerned that there wasn't a chance to meet with the decision makers to answer questions regarding his proposal before a winning bidder was selected.
“Our service levels were high,” he said, noting that deliveries were regularly made in the off-hours and on holidays due to the pharmacy’s proximity to the nursing home.
He hopes the community outcry he's noted since word started to spread of the potential for Bridgetown Pharmasave to lose the nursing home contract will speak to the importance of local supporting local.
“I'm very appreciative,” he said, referring to the recent outpouring of support for his staff.
For now, he's focusing on measuring the potential impact of the decades-long service arrangement ending. From there, he’ll turn his attention to forging a new way forward that is good for Bridgetown Pharmasave, and good for his hometown.
“This used to be a really booming, bustling area,” said Lycett. “This is just one more hit.”
Residents air concerns
Paradise resident Dave Whitman, a well-known local author and friend of the Lycett family, recently shared his concerns about Bridgetown Pharmasave losing the Mountain Lea Lodge contract on Facebook.
Whitman typically uses the social media platform to promote his books, but he felt compelled to air his concerns about what he views as a “severe blow to the Bridgetown business community” in a post he published Feb. 16. As of Feb. 19 at 10:15 a.m., Whitman’s Facebook post had garnered 249 comments and 298 shares.
He described the response as “amazing,” but said he wasn’t totally shocked to see that the issue was hitting close to home for many local residents.
“People that have a Bridgetown connection… felt bad for Kirk and his family and for the business community in Bridgetown in general,” said Whitman.
“Kirk has pumped a lot of time, effort and money into various projects in Bridgetown. To sit down and make a list would take a long time and someone would probably miss something.”
Whitman said the unknowns around how – and why – the decision was made turned out to be a hot topic of discussion.
“I think a lot of the people are a little mystified about how the process actually works,” he said, adding that he’s waiting to hear more about the rationale behind the call.
“The people in Bridgetown are hurting and I think a lot of people would like to see (them) go back and review and change their decision, but I don’t know how that works.”
The Annapolis Valley Register arranged for an interview with Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation CEO Joyce d’Entremont for 11 a.m. Feb. 19, but d’Entremont cancelled the interview via email at 10:49 a.m., offering a prepared statement instead.
“After speaking with my board chair, we have made the decision not to partake in an interview. We are sending along this document,” the email states.
The attached document included a prepared statement with eight bullet points. The statement explains that the housing corporation’s board of directors is responsible for issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for service contracts involving the publicly-funded entity.
“We have a responsibility to regularly test the market to ensure we are receiving the best possible value and price from our service providers,” the statement reads.
The Call for Proposals Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation finance director Mark Muise filed for pharmacy services can be viewed on the provincial procurement website. The RFP was issued Jan. 9.
“Based on our comprehensive due diligence process, the selection committee unanimously agreed with awarding the contract to a new pharmacy service provider,” the housing corporation’s statement reads.
“We believe this is the right decision and one that is in the best interest of our residents.”
In a brief phone conversation following the release of an emailed statement, d’Entremont confirmed that the tender process is closed, and the decision announced earlier this month is final.
“I am not prepared to answer any more questions, except that we followed our RFP,” she said, later confirming via email that Lawtons was the successful proponent.