Pharmacists have been given new and extended powers relating to common medicines, opening hours and delivery methods to assist with the safe provision of services during the coronavirus pandemic.
They are also reporting a surge in the number of people opting to get their annual flu shot early.
Pharmacy customers can now receive a wide range of common medicines, even if they have been unable to access a prescription from their doctor. That capacity was first introduced during the bushfire crisis and has been extended to1 June.
Pharmacists can dispense one month’s worth of medicine at the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) price, if people have previously been prescribed that medication and the pharmacist is satisfied it is ‘urgently needed’.
They can also offer professional guidance on forms of medicine and dose strengths when some products are temporarily unavailable. This is one of the reasons why pharmacy assistant courses are becoming more popular.
Pharmacies can also open 24 hours a day during the COVID-19 outbreak to permit greater social distancing for customers.
And vulnerable people, including those aged over 70, anyone with chronic health conditions and those in self-isolation, can now have their prescription medicines delivered to their door through an arrangement between the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Australia Post.
As with a range of products at supermarkets and even plant nurseries, some purchasing limits have been put in place. Pharmacists can dispense one unit of over-the-counter medicine and one month’s supply of prescription medicine.
For more detailed information on these services, go to the Department of Health.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Associate Professor Chris Freeman said members were already reporting huge demand for the flu shot, with doctors urging everyone to get the vaccination early rather than wait until May, which is the advice in normal years.
“[Pharmacist] flu clinics, which have just started in the last couple of weeks, have been fully booked out,” he said.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging people aged under 65 to get their flu vaccine earlier. However, older Australians have been advised to wait until later in April for a special vaccine that is specially designed for their age group.
Protecting yourself and your family from the flu with a vaccination now will help reduce the strain on health resources from COVID-19,” said RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon.
“If people don’t get vaccinated and an increasing number of flu patients and COVID-19 patients require urgent healthcare, lives will be put at risk.”
Pharmacists’ personal safety concerns have been put front and centre before Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an open letter, published in full on ajp.com.au, from pharmacists Mohamed Kaoud and Mahmoud Galal.
They are concerned about the lack of adequate protection for all pharmacists and their staff in their interaction with customers, and the extra responsibility that comes with dispensing medication without a prescription.
Have you had trouble getting a consultation with your GP to have a prescription filled? Has your pharmacist been helpful?
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