Lafene’s new drive-thru pharmacy opening in March, director says

Eugene DeDonder, director of pharmacy at Lafene Health Center, sits at his usual desk in Lafene's indoor pharmacy. Within a month, DeDonder and his fellow pharmacists will be moving their services to another side of the building and offering a drive-thru window for filling prescriptions. (Katelin Woods | Collegian Media Group)

A drive-thru pharmacy at Lafene Health Center is scheduled to open as students return from spring break on March 18 of this year.

Before the Lafene building was a student health center, it was once a local hospital. A former ambulance bay will serve as the new drive-thru pharmacy location.

Inside the center, the new pharmacy area was more recently an area for the women’s clinic. Jim Parker, director of Lafene, said trouble with the current pharmacy setup led to the addition of a drive-thru.

“There’s just no easy way for you to get pharmaceuticals,” Parker said. “If you leave the building and come back, you have to find parking. You have to come in. You have to wait.”

Parker initiated the project and talked informally about the idea to some members of the Student Governing Association before work on the renovation began. The project has taken about a year and a half so far.

“We believe really one of the major components is that students like convenience, and that is probably the driving force,” Parker said.

Other components are value and access, Parker added.

“Hopefully, utilization will improve because we really do try and offer significant discounts for students,” Parker said.

There will be check-in windows inside the clinic and a standard drive-thru window that faces out into the former ambulance bay. Both have privacy and safety features.

On the counter of every doctor's room, you'll notice these common supplies, and Lafene Health Center is no different. (Katelin Woods | Collegian Media Group)

Besides the drive thru, Lafene is also adding drug storage units and office workspaces for pharmacists and technicians.

While adding a drive-thru pharmacy is beneficial for students, Parker said other pharmacies, such as ones found at Walmart, use pricing methods that Lafene cannot afford to compete with.

“We won’t be able to compete with $4 drugs on a $50 cost to us,” Parker said. “They’re willing to lose money on some drugs in order to get people to buy other things in the store. Those are called loss leaders, and we just don’t have those.”

Hannah Sutherland, senior in mass communications, said she currently uses the drive-thru pharmacy at Walgreens.

“Sometimes it just feels a little bit more private,” Sutherland said. “Also, it is just quick, and in the winter it’s a lot more appealing to not have to get out of my car and go inside.”

Sutherland said the update to Lafene will not change her choice in pharmacy.

“Walgreens works really well with my insurance,” Sutherland said. “I’ve been going there for basically my whole life, so I have a lot of trust built up.”

Parker said he knows Lafene isn’t able to match prices from other locations, but he aims to keep Lafene financially stable.

“Whenever we sell something like pharmacy goods, our desire isn’t really for profit,” Parker said. “We have to project so that we don’t lose money; otherwise, it becomes a subsidy program.”

The drive-thru renovation project is funded by Lafene’s operating revenue. Some sources of operating revenue include simple procedures like getting stitches, lab tests and similar services.

Parker said Lafene provides limited services to faculty and staff. The addition of a drive-thru pharmacy is an opportunity to attract them to use more services.

“That’s an external source of revenue down the road we’re hoping could potentially offset what we would ask for privilege fees,” Parker said. “However, we have no finite or solid foundation on how we would project that out.”

Parker said Lafene will look to make other functional updates moving forward, but those improvements are more of “a dream” until the drive-thru project is completed.