WNY pharmacy ramping up testing abilities amid increased demand

Brighton Eggert Pharmacy helps schools with testing mandates; Planned expansion in Tonawanda this week
Cars line up outside Brighton Eggert Pharmacy to receive a rapid test. December 1, 2020
Cars line up outside Brighton Eggert Pharmacy to receive a rapid test. December 1, 2020 Photo credit WBEN/Mike Baggerman

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - A Tonawanda pharmacy is among the local businesses that are stepping up to aid in testing for coronavirus.

Brighton Eggert Pharmacy began conducting drive-up rapid tests two weeks ago and tested 100 people per day early on. Now, they're testing five times as many people and have hired additional health professionals to accommodate the new demand.

"I hope to do up to 1,000 people a day by next week," Brighton Eggert Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Don Arthur told WBEN. "We're up to 4,000 a week last week and I think we'll be up to 8,000...It looks like we're going to be ramping up to where we'll be doing 20% of all COVID testing in all of Western New York just from our community pharmacy."

Currently, the drive-up rapid tests occur outside the pharmacy in an adjacent lot. Because there are so many cars in the lot, traffic is overflowing into the road. Arthur said they've now partnered with the Town of Tonawanda to expand to the DFK Pavilion on Ensminger Road.

"It's perfect for us," Arthur said. "It's a much larger footprint and a much larger parking lot. We're going to be hopefully moving the entire operation there on Thursday. We feel when we get over there we can get up to 1,500 to 2,000 tests a day if the community needs that."

Arthur, who also operates Black Rock Pharmacy in Buffalo, said they've also helped local schools accommodate the demand for testing. Under the state's updated testing rules, schools in an orange zone must test 20% of its population per month and 30% in a red zone. Arthur said their staff tested the entire school population at Elmwood Franklin School on Tuesday.

"We're doing the testing for them under our waiver," Arthur said. "We're obligated at the end of the day to take those 380 tests and upload them to the state database. Like other schools in Western New York, they've been quick to get up to speed."

Arthur said they've also worked with other schools, including D'Youville to help accommodate testing needs.

Health care workers from Brighton Eggert Pharmacy at Elmwood Franklin School.
Health care workers from Brighton Eggert Pharmacy at Elmwood Franklin School. Photo credit Don Arthur

There were 53,363 diagnostic tests conducted in Erie County from November 24 to November 30. The vast majority of those tests come from pharmacies and urgent care centers. Government-run testing sites do not cost any money to get a test, though there tends to be a longer waiting time to get a test and a result. Arthur said they are only taking tests by appointment only and currently have a one-day backlog, though he is optimistic that they will soon be able to do same-day testing once they expand at the DFK Pavilion.

It costs $65 to get a test from Brighton Eggert Pharmacy, though Arthur said they are not directly billing insurance companies because their current contracts with providers are structured to only accommodate prescription medications and not point-of-care tests. He said, though, that they are giving invoices to those who receive a test, which can then be submitted to insurance companies in an attempt to receive a refund.

"We know it's expensive but we feel it's a fair and reasonable price," Arthur said. "We've tested 4,000 people this week and I don't think more than a dozen didn't want to get a test because of that reason."