No Distance Too Far

Interview with Rhonda Pagan

Going the Extra Mile for Pharmacare’s Big Island Patients

Going the extra mile to serve Big Island patients has a special meaning to our Hilo office team. To ensure patients receive the medications or equipment they need to get well or improve their quality of life, the Hilo team does whatever it takes to get the patients’ prescriptions to them, wherever they may live on the island.

Rhonda Pagan, IV PCA, Hilo Office Manager at Pharmacare Hawaii, who moved from Oahu to Hilo 30 years ago to open the Hilo office, knows this all too well.

“Our patients may live in rural areas, where there is no power or cell phone reception. Some live in the mountains or on coffee farms. We go up dirt roads,” she said.

“It takes more discharge planning, more coordination up front when we accept a patient. We have to ask all those questions: Is there power or cell reception? Who is the emergency contact if we can’t reach you? We have to obtain really good delivery directions because we can’t rely on GPS. We can’t take anything for granted,” Rhonda said.

Photo: Rhonda Pagan works hard to ensure Hilo's patients receive top-notch, quality care.

Covering the Entire Island Takes Planning

The sheer size of the island is also daunting. “Many on Oahu don’t realize the size of the Big Island. The perimeter of this island is 350 miles, and there are no freeways. We service the entire island, and sometimes it takes two hours to get somewhere,” said Rhonda, who previously worked at Longs Drugs and Times Supermarket pharmacy in Liliha, where she first met Pharmacare CEO Byron Yoshino.

Serving the entire island keeps the Hilo team always on the go. Rhonda’s small team consists of 5.5 other employees, including two full-time intake specialists, one full-time Specialty PCA, two full-time drivers, and a part-time clerk.

“We can’t cover the whole island every day, so we must plan carefully,” Rhonda said. “We designate certain days to deliver to certain areas. We make deliveries to the same areas twice a week.”

It is important to note that the Hilo office is not a retail site, so there are few pick-ups. In fact, about 90 percent of the prescriptions are delivered to patient homes.

Typically, patients come to the Hilo location primarily to receive care at the two-chair infusion suite, some of whom drive all the way from Waimea or Kona. Oahu nurses Tina Whetstone or Niki Garcia currently come over at least once or twice a week to provide the infusion therapy services.

Photos: Shaun Nelson (left) and Toby Takaaze (right) deliver prescriptions with a smile.


Getting to Know Patients

Despite Hawaii Island’s large size, there is still a small town feel about the island, especially in Hilo. People know each other well. For the Pharmacare Hilo team, this translates into excellent customer service.

“A lot of our patients are elderly, and they feel nervous, anxious, and they just need someone to tell them that everything is going to be okay,” Rhonda said. “We let them know that we will take care of them, we got you.”

As Rhonda reflected over her past 30 years working as part of a pharmacy, she pointed out the evolving role of pharmacists.

“I think pharmacists today have a lot more patient care and involvement. It’s not like picking up your meds at a retail pharmacy. For example, with Enteral or IV, you call these people every month and you get to know them and their family, especially in Hilo. It’s a small town and everyone knows everyone.

Photo: Dayna Torngren, Warehouse Clerk, packs and prepares orders for delivery.


Giving Globally

Rhonda’s kindness extends beyond Pharmacare Hawaii patients. Now that her children are older, she volunteers in her church and spends her free time sewing dresses for a program called Dress A Girl Around the World. The program is part of Hope 4 Women International, a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian organization established in 2006 whose goal is to have a world in which every girl has at least one new dress. Rhonda’s enthusiasm has inspired her co-worker, Joann Tsue, Intake Specialist, who also helps with sewing dresses. Together with her team, Rhonda delivers warm, genuine care to any place Aloha can reach.

Photos: Rhonda Pagan (left) and Joann Tsue (right) packs up handmade dresses for girls in Haiti.

A Touching Intergenerational Story

Sometimes taking the time to know a patient may mean all the world to someone 20 years later.

Many years ago, Rhonda recalls visiting a 21-year-old mom diagnosed with ovarian cancer who was on pain management medications.

“I had to personally make a delivery and I recollect that she wanted someone to talk to. I sat down with her and she shared her story. I was in tears and touched. All of her friends were young and wanted to drink and party. They didn’t understand that she just wanted to be there until her son turned one year old,” Rhonda said.

The young woman did make it to see her son celebrate his first birthday, but the story does not end there. Twenty years later, while at an event, Rhonda overhead a young man speaking.

“I bumped into this boy who was telling people about his mom dying when he was a baby. I asked for his mother’s name and it was the same woman. I was so blessed to be able to share his mom’s words with him,” Rhonda said. “I was able to share how his mother died and how she wanted to live to see him reach his first birthday,” Rhonda said. “I get goosebumps thinking about this.”

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