The number of Covid-19 cases in rural areas like Bourke, NSW has given rise to new guidelines for community pharmacies. One of which suggests that the staff be split into two teams and rostered apart to minimise the risk of infection.
However, according to one Bourke-based pharmacy owner, the guideline is simply impossible to implement. Many rural pharmacies including the larger ones don't have enough staff to run a two-team roster. Any attempt to abide by the guidelines would affect their ability to respond to patients.
According to a statement by the Rural Pharmacy Network Australia (RPNA), “It’s wonderful to see other parts of the community pharmacy network being put to the test and rising to the challenge, it really is. But out here, we just don’t have the means, and no one is offering us any useful resource assistance.”
Community Pharmacies See Jump in Vaccinations
In the past week, community pharmacies have reported a 245% increase in the number of vaccinations. Pharmacies in NSW saw the biggest increase in doses given, with a total of 115,656, up from approximately 40,000 in the previous month. Over in ACT, there was also a surge from 68 to over 5,000.
Currently, 18.7% of vaccines distributed to pharmacies countrywide have been administered with the data suggesting that pharmacies in the Northern Territory administered 57.4% of the total doses, followed by the ACT with 31.8%
The NAB Pharmacy Survey 2021 Reveals the Minds of Pharmacy Patients
The NAB Pharmacy Survey report noted that almost 2 out of 3 Australians want their pharmacists to provide a wider range of health services, including renewing prescriptions for ongoing treatment. The report also noted that Australian pharmacists are more limited in the services they provide than professionals in other developed countries.
“Most [patients] believe that pharmacists should be authorised to provide emergency dispensing of medicine and ongoing dispensing of oral contraceptive pills,” according to the author.
The report also stated that 62% of respondents believe they should be able to renew their prescriptions for ongoing treatment and 55% believe pharmacists should be able to diagnose and prescribe for minor illnesses.
“Australians were in lowest agreement for authorising pharmacists to diagnose and prescribe medicines for more complex or serious ailments and illnesses.” According to the report, most of the respondents who wanted pharmacists to provide emergency medication prescriptions were over 65, and South Australians wanted the measure handled state-by-state.
PSA supports National Roadmap for Improving Health of People with Intellectual Disability
According to PSA National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman, medication management would play a key role in improving care in the disability sector. The National 10-year Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability includes an initial $19.3 million commitment to support health workers delivering improved monitoring of patients’ conditions.
“PSA strongly supports the key objectives of the National Roadmap, in particular, the development of better models of care for people with intellectual disability and support for health professionals to deliver quality care for this cohort,” Freeman said.
Dr Manya Angley, Disability Royal Commission witness, said that the role of pharmacists in the disability sector should be clearly defined and resources accordingly.
“As medicines are the most powerful intervention used in healthcare, pharmacists are well positioned to improve overall health by ensuring quality use of medicines. Inappropriate medicine use, especially psychotropics, is a problem concerning both the health and disability sectors - hence, interdisciplinary collaborations are required to address it,” Dr Angley said.
Rural Pharmacists May Not Be Able to Work to Full Scope of Practice - RPNA
The Rural Pharmacy Network Australia (RPNA) backed efforts to promote better utilisation of pharmacists’ skills. However, they also warned that it may not be enough. According to a spokesperson, “... for many pharmacies the fundamentals needed to embrace the full scope of practice simply aren’t in place.
“We’ve been told by rural pharmacy owners that their staffing has been so stretched for so long that they simply can’t contemplate any new series, no matter how much they want to, and the more isolated they are the worse-off they are.”
The spokesperson also highlighted that the welfare of the staff team is priority one as burnout continues to rise in the pandemic. “A lot of these owners feel unsupported, particularly on the matter of rural workforce financial incentives, where community pharmacy still lags 20 years behind rural GPs.”
The RPNA also voiced concerns that the Australian Pharmacy network was at risk of being split between those with capacity and those without. “We need pharmacy remuneration that addresses health disadvantage and postcode inequity… and we need a properly funded rural pharmacist workforce incentive program that is at least comparable to the GPs.”
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