Stay away from pharmacies

Patients are presenting pharmacists with prescriptions from GPs even after they’ve been tested for COVID-19 and asked to go into isolation, some community pharmacists are reporting.

According to The Australian Journal of Pharmacy, patients are going into pharmacies looking to fill prescriptions for issues other than COVID-19 after they’ve been tested for coronavirus and asked to stay home, PSA national president Chris Freeman tweeted on Sunday.

“I ask my GP colleagues to give appropriate equipment for patients (where it exists) and send script to the pharmacy – most community pharmacies (if not all) will happily deliver,” said Mr Freeman.

“We need to keep everyone safe including staff in community pharmacy.”

Many patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms may still need medications for other health conditions. However, it’s not necessary for them to enter a pharmacy, as the federal government is providing funding for pharmacists to enable home delivery of medicines to people at risk.

Therefore, people in self isolation and those who are vulnerable, such as the elderly or immunocompromised, will be able to order their PBS and RPBS prescriptions remotely and have their medicines home delivered to reduce their – and the public’s – potential exposure to COVID-19.

However, the Department of Health (DHS) has stated that while electronic prescribing and dispensing capability is developing in Australia, it may not yet be widely available.

“Some pharmacy chains currently support remote dispensing of prescriptions using a combination of mailed prescriptions, faxed/emailed prescriptions or electronic transfer of prescriptions (ETP) technology,” says the DHS.

“All community pharmacies will be eligible to participate if they can support online dispensing of medicine and provide home delivery services. The government will be working quickly with pharmacies to roll out this capability.”

If the service is not available to you, the Pharmacy Guild has provided pharmacists with a guide for patients who present with indications they have COVID-19.

“Community pharmacies should have a space where you can isolate a patient/s who are suspected of being infected with COVID-19 as well as any accompanying family or carers,” the guide states to pharmacists.

“If a consultation or isolated room is not available, an area needs to be identified that will keep a patient or patients at least two metres from staff and other patients in the pharmacy,” reads the guide.

“This area should be able to be cordoned off when in use with a suspected COVID-19 case.

“Prepare signage for the room/area such as ‘DO NOT ENTER unless authorised and wearing PPE’ for use as necessary.”

Patients can help pharmacists by being aware of these guidelines and assisting in their implementation.

Patients should look for appropriate signage at the pharmacy’s entry points requesting you to self identify as ‘at risk’ of COVID-19 and to highlight this to staff immediately.

If pharmacists suspect a case of COVID-19, they will:

  • immediately give the patient/s and accompanying family or carer a surgical mask and ensure it is fitted correctly
  • escort the patient/s and accompanying family or carer to an isolated room/area to discuss their condition
  • avoid direct physical contact with the patient/s and exposure to respiratory and other secretions
  • ensure staff dealing with the patient/s are wearing masks and other protective equipment (gloves, eye protection, aprons if contact is necessary)
  • assist the patient/s to contact their doctor to arrange to be assessed and testing conducted
  • if the patient/s is seriously unwell, or their doctor cannot assess them, arrange for transport to hospital. If necessary, by ambulance
  • if the patient/s is able instruct them to return home and self-isolate until they have arranged with their doctor to be tested
  • after the consultation, remove gloves/gown, perform hand hygiene, remove eye protection, perform hand hygiene, remove mask and perform hand hygiene.

Clinical symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever OR
  • cough (with or without fever)
  • shortness of breath (with or without fever).

The Therapeutic Goods Administration suggests that while it may be appropriate for individuals to ensure they have at least two weeks supply of prescription medicines in the unlikely event they are quarantined, any stockpiling of medicines is unnecessary.

If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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