Pharmacists Mohamed Kaoud and Mahmoud Galal have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling for help with both protecting and recognising the profession
AJP has published their letter in full below.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to address the impact of COVID-19 on pharmacists in Australia.
As pharmacists we are concerned about the lack of support and resources provided to pharmacists during this pandemic.
Pharmacists have always been at the front line of health care as we provide our services sincerely to our country and local communities.
Without pharmacists no member of the community will be able to access any medication. This is even more relevant during this pandemic.
However despite this the current decisions that have been made regarding pharmacies express that more value has been given to the pharmacy as a business and provided little value to the safety and welfare of the pharmacists themselves.
Although pharmacists are health professionals and are eager to serve our community during this trialling time we also have families. We also care for the safety of the loved ones that we return home to everyday after our shifts. As a result, we are strongly requesting Government support and procedure enforcement to protect us and our families.
Firstly, we request that adequate protection is distributed to all pharmacists and their staff.
This may include full body/face protective gear and/or enforcing pharmacies to barricade medication and other over the counter items from customers with transparent curtains/protective barriers.
This will allow pharmacists to continue to council and serve customers in a safe manner and will reduce the contamination of the items in the pharmacy. Please see examples [below].
Secondly, although the latest decision in NSW to extend the authority for emergency supply of medication without a prescription has always been welcome by pharmacists, proper recognition and resources must be provided. Pharmacists should be given an individual provider number.
As pharmacists with 23 years of collective experience our wages have not increased during our employment and there have been no opportunities for career development in this field of work in community pharmacies.
Pharmacists are often missed from any benefits and their skills are not properly recognised and rewarded. As medication experts, pharmacists should be compensated or reimbursed for the additional health care services and not just paid as an hourly retail worker.
If we do not implement these changes and the pharmacist are infected with COVID-19 this will result in dire consequences. The obvious impact may be that the pharmacy will be forced to shut down as it is well known that the pharmacy cannot legally operate without a pharmacist. This will reduce access to medication nationwide including life-saving medication.
We will find that the virus will not be the only cause of death during this pandemic. The virus may also rapidly spread to other customers who may have comorbidities and are vulnerable to infection.
These ideas are not just about keeping pharmacies open, it is about keeping pharmacists alive, healthy and functioning enough to help our community during this pandemic.
They will also help reduce the rate of contamination and ensure pharmacists feel safe to return home to their loved ones.
Mohamed Kaoud works in community pharmacy in NSW, while Mahmoud Galal works in community pharmacy in Queensland. Mr Galal also has a background in hospital pharmacy.