Pharmacy staff who have been forced to isolate post-Covid-19 exposure can now receive unpaid pandemic leave. This comes after the Fair Work Commission extended provisions in Schedule X of the Pharmacy Industry Award 2020 until the 31st December.
The extension will also allow pharmacy employees to take double their regular annual leave for half-pay in the event of a quarantine. The measure was approved by the FWC’s entire bench, as well as Professional Pharmacists Australia the Employee Pharmacist’s Union.
Speaking on the measure, new Guild President Trent Twomey said that the Guild acknowledges the “need for such measures during these challenging times.” Therefore, the organisation didn’t see a need to oppose the application.
When interviewed, a spokesperson also said, “We welcome the FWC’s decision, which will provide pharmacy employees additional leave benefits.”
While the FWC announced the extension of schedule X provisions, it also confirmed that schedule Y provision would cease on the 29th March. Schedule Y provisions facilitated paid pandemic leave in the aged care Award, and the FWC stated that there was no further need.
“The emergency circumstance [that] caused us to award the paid pandemic leave entitlement … do not appear to have pertained for some time now. It is, therefore, our provisional view that Schedule Y should not be further extended”, a spokesperson said.
Brisbane braces for a snap lockdown
Following the discovery of seven Covid-19 cases in Brisbane, Australia, a three-day snap lockdown was initiated that commenced on Monday, 29th March.
Brisbane is familiar with snap lockdowns, as the city also shut down in January due to a similar discovery. While the lockdown may seem dramatic, the Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said it was necessary as community transmission was a significant risk. “I know it is really tough. We have Easter coming up, we have school holidays coming up… but let’s do it now, and let’s do it right and see if we can come through it at the other end,” she said at a press conference on Monday the 29th March.
In response to the announcement, acting president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Chris Owen, said pharmacies all over the city were adequately prepared. “Community pharmacies are here to help all Queenslanders and already have protocols in place to ensure their safety and wellbeing,” he said.
Some of the protocols included giving patients “fair and equitable access” to their medications and ensuring that social distancing is maintained. “As essential primary healthcare services, Queensland’s vast network of over 1,200 community pharmacies will continue to be on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
VPA reiterates stance on pharmacy ownerships
In a recent circular, the Victorian Pharmacy Authority Chair, David McConville, re-established that only licenced pharmacists can own pharmacies in Victoria. This comes after some media outlets voiced concerns about entities owning several pharmacies.
“The Authority reminds stakeholders that only registered pharmacists, companies of pharmacists, and eligible friendly societies may own pharmacies,” he said. He also stated that pharmacists or pharmaceutical companies “must not own or have a proprietary interest in more than five separate pharmacy businesses in the state [under the Victorian legislation.]”
According to McConville, pharmacies that have not completed a detailed assessment may have ‘commercial arrangement’ conditions placed on their licences. Pharmacy owners and licensees were informed of this development after the VPA completed business ownership audits.
Speaking on the conditions, he stated that “[it] details the action the authority may take if, after further investigation, the commercial arrangements are found to contravene the act.”
Pharmacy-based vaccination could expand public health services
Researchers believe that administering vaccinations in pharmacies could lead to an expansion in the public health delivered by pharmacists. The study was conducted before the pandemic, and it suggests that pharmacists have an inconsistent view of public health.
Titled “The contribution of community pharmacy to improving the public’s health,” the findings state that pharmacists appear to “value aspects of public health that they were familiar with.” Some of these aspects included primary health prevention measures like blood pressure monitoring and smoking cessation. However, all the study participants agreed on vaccination being a critical public health intervention.
The research also suggested that pharmacists expressed support for taking a more significant role in the provision of public health services. However, they are confronted with barriers like lack of time, remuneration, and training standard. The authors noted that enabling factors like opportunities for new funding models and improving pharmacists’ accessibility would significantly improve public health contributions.
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