Drugs limit; fears for aged

The pleas to stop buying more than you need continue to resound around Australia as the government puts measures in place to protect the most vulnerable, the elderly. These moves, however, have been attacked as “lazy, alarmist and counter productive”.

On the back of purchasing limits on essential items – put in place by most major supermarket chains after weeks of unabated panic buying – paracetamol and ventolin are now to be limited to one per customer, and children’s paracetamol will be placed behind pharmacy counters.

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly announced the new rules on Thursday after widespread reports of shortages.

Mr Kelly urged people to stop buying more than they needed, particularly asthma medication, including ventolin, and children’s medicines.

“I recognise again that people are fearful about issues, particularly those that might affect their own families,” he said, “but I say again … please do not buy more than you need.”

Mr Kelly emphasised that there was no overall shortage of drugs in Australia, but there were “local supply shortages”.

“We have a very good system of knowing about medicine shortages in Australia and, in fact, it is incumbent on all medicine suppliers that they must tell us if there is a shortage now or shortly into the future,” he said.

“We have not had that from any suppliers. It seems local supply shortages have happened in particular pharmacies.”

Meanwhile, the government has placed visitation restrictions on aged care facilities, limiting visits to a maximum of two visitors at one time per day and decreeing that all visits be brief.

Visits are to be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors or in a designated area at the facility and not in communal areas to minimise the risk of transmission.

No social activities or entertainment will be permitted in aged care facilities – indefinitely.

In addition, no visitors are allowed to enter aged care if they have been overseas in the past 14 days, been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, have COVID-19 like symptoms or have not been vaccinated against influenza after 1 May 2019.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “It is about protecting the residents at the end of the day.”

He added that about 20,000 student nurses would be made available to help support the healthcare and aged care sectors across Australia.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, the peak body for older Australians, has welcomed the new guidelines but said yesterday that some aged care providers were already using the new restrictions for visitors as an excuse for “unacceptable restraint on the rights of residents and families”.

Chief executive Ian Yates said: “Compassion and respect on an individual basis are key to the implementation of these measures, not the cookie-cutter approaches, top-down edicts and lack of sensitivity and common-sense some residents and families are experiencing.

“Contact with family and loved ones is a crucial part of care for many aged care residents, such as those with dementia.

“An example is the elderly wife who comes each day to sit and talk for hours with her husband with advanced dementia. If she is prevented from doing this, her husband will become anxious, disoriented and have behavioural problems and the facility will have to spend more staff time with him, or he will end up being drugged.”

Mr Yates said that if an aged care facility could manage the health and safety of its staff, who come and go daily and could potentially pose a significant health risk to residents, then there was no reason it could not also safely manage family visitors with strict control measures.

“So called ‘lockdowns’ are the opposite of a sensible and compassionate response and should only be a temporary emergency response to an internal or nearby community outbreak, while longer-term measures are worked out. They should never be a long-term response. As a long-term approach, ‘lockdowns’ are a lazy, alarmist and counter-productive reaction, the opposite of being compassionate and caring.”

Have you had experience of ‘lazy’ behaviour at aged care facilities?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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