Pharmacists have largely become Australia’s forgotten frontline when it comes to the fight against COVID-19.
Pharmacists are going on week 4 of working around the clock to meet demand, supplying life-saving medications to Australians. But as they burn the midnight oil, their shelves have been stripped of supplies, they have copped physical and verbal abuse from scared patients, have largely been left without appropriate PPE and all while facing extended trading hours as they remain one of the few places Australians can still go to while in lockdown,
SBS reported recently that Perth pharmacist, Michael Franciscus, has made the significant personal sacrifice of completely isolating himself from his family while he serves his community. And serve his community he is – Michael told SBS news that an unprecedented number of customers are filing through the doors of his two pharmacies in the suburb of Subiaco each day.
“We are an essential service … ensuring that people can readily access their medication. If people are in isolation, we’re doing deliveries to those people,” he said.
The back-breaking demand is still something pharmacists are dealing with everyday. MedAdvisor data shows medication orders are up about 130%, compared to just three weeks ago, and that pharmacists are processing double – and in some cases triple – the number of scripts they usually would and they’re doing it in an environment with little protection from the mental and physical effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
Steve Kastranakis, Advantage Group Pharmacist Owner in Warragul Victoria, said there wasn’t one Ventolin in a town of 12.5k people and pharmacists were trying to move stock from one store to another.
“We have been run off our feet. The demand is unbelievable, I have run out of key over-the-counter products and our supply chain has been impacted by the panic buyers. Our pharmacists are working 14-hour days to get through the demand and we don’t know when it will end.”
This is all about to come to a head. Pharmacists are concerned about the lack of support, lack of information about what to do when a COVID-19 case walks through their doors – do they have to shut? How do they protect their staff? Do they need to get specialised cleaners in? How do they keep their shops safe for customers and staff?
Pharmacists need access to appropriate PPE and protocols, they need access to mental health support, they need us to recognise their efforts. No longer should they be the forgotten frontline of healthcare.
Pharmacists are the critical connection between clinical care, medication and community engagement.
As community pharmacist Mohamed Kaoud wrote in his letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, “Without pharmacists no member of the community will be able to access any medication. This is even more relevant during this pandemic.”
This is simply about keeping our pharmacists alive and this very important frontline running at the time we need it most.
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