Most Interested Pharmacies are Suitable to Join the Covid-19 Vaccination Rollout

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The Pharmacy Programs Administrator (PPA) has stated that most of the 4,900 pharmacies that submitted expression of interest applications are “suitable” to join the rollout. The PPA also stated that the pharmacy stores would be put forward to the Federal Department of Health for potential selection to participate in the rollout.

However, the statement warns that being “deemed suitable does not mean the pharmacy will be invited to participate.”

In a joint statement, the Queensland branches of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia urged the Federal Government to engage community pharmacies quickly.

Chris Owen, Acting Branch President of the Queensland Guild stated, “For several years, community pharmacies across Australia have been safely involved in the rollout of critical vaccination programs… The Covid-19 vaccine [rollout] is the most critical health initiative in our generation… community pharmacies must be part of the solution.”

PSA Queensland Branch President, Shane MacDonald also described community pharmacies' involvement as ”imperative to leading the State out of the pandemic.” He also stated that even though pharmacists in hospitals and aboriginal community control health organisations are already administering vaccines, most pharmacies are on the sidelines.

Read: Pharmacists may not be involved in the vaccine rollout until June

Pharmacy Organisations Welcome Decision to Increase Delivered Vaccine Doses

The Federal government has promised to increase the weekly doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine delivered to GP clinics weekly. Clinics that previously got 50 weekly doses will now get 150, and those that got 100 will now get 200.

According to a spokesperson from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, “The decision to increase Covid-19 vaccination doses to GPs is a welcome sign that supply issues have been resolved… The government should immediately begin distributing doses to pharmacies.”

The spokesperson further stated that the Guild will continue collaborating with the government to ensure that pharmacies get the required doses to meet demand in their communities.

Read: GPs Receive Quarter of the Requested Dosage as Vaccine Roll-out Ramps Up

Pharmacy Staff need Education and Support to Deliver Harm Minimisation Services

A study published in Addiction and Mental Health in Pharmacy revealed that community pharmacies are accessible and numerous enough to deliver harm minimisation services.

28 stakeholders including patients and pharmacy staff were involved in the study and according to them, “community pharmacies are underutilised in the provision of harm minimisation and related patient care services.” Some of these services include pain and oral health management and monitoring for infections.

One of the major barriers identified is the associated stigma. Consumers had reservations because staff tend to interact differently with them, as compared to other consumers. There were also financial limitations, and pharmacy staff indicated that there have been calls for the Federal Government to subsidise harm minimisation services like OPTs (Opioid Treatment Programs) and NSPs (Needle and Syringe Programs.)

AHPRA Pledges to Act Against Negligent Care

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency vowed action against practitioners who don’t deliver sufficient care to patients in their custody.

The pledge was issued after the ruling of a long-standing tribunal case. The case involved Dr Vafa Naderi who provided treatment to Julieka Dhu while in police custody. Julieka Dhu was a Yamatji woman who was remanded for unpaid fines in 2014.

During the ordeal, she was taken to an emergency department following complaints of pain in the lower rib region. After triage, she was found to have a rapid pulse, dehydration, and an agitated demeanour. Reports have it that she wasn't assessed until two hours after the triage, even though her ATS score suggested she should have been seen within 60 minutes.

Dr Naderi recorded “difficult to assess” and “withdrawal from drugs” in his notes after which he prescribed analgesic and benzodiazepine medication and released Dhu back to police custody.

Dhu died the following day and AHPRA’s investigations suggested that her death was caused by “staphylococcal septicaemia and pneumonia with osteomyelitis complicating a previous rib fracture.”

Dr Naderi was later fined $30,000 for not meeting the standards of care expected of his level of experience and training.

“We will continue to pursue matters [like these] to the tribunal to ensure that [patients] can trust that they will receive professional care in all circumstances,” AHPRA stated.

Lower Barriers to Pharmacy-led Services for Aged Residents

The PSA has called on the Federal government to allocate $200 million over the next four years to grant residential aged care facilities direct access to pharmacists and tackle the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications and sedatives.

According to National President, Associate Professor, Chris Freeman, “It’s alarming that this issue is a game of Russian roulette, and unfortunately, our older Australians are paying the price.” He also stated that a stronger connection between pharmacists and health care and aged care is needed. “Pharmacists are the custodians of medicine safety, and [they] can help bridge this divide.”

Read: Qualified Pharmacists Can Now Immigrate to Australia F Rule Changes

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