What has Covid-19 shown us? One thing it reveals is Australia’s glaring need for a Chief Pharmacist, says Karalyn Huxhagen
For me the biggest and most complex issue that has been highlighted (and it is an age-old issue) is that we need an Australian Chief Pharmacist and we need a national system of legislation.
When I joined PSA in 1981 we had this state by state issue with legislation that affected our ability to change regulations and policy. Every state had an overriding jurisdiction that differed so no matter what we passed as National law the states could meld to their own legislation.
It did my head in then, it did my head in when we were writing the Competency Standards and it has done my head in when we wrote legislation in relation to Immunisation, Dispensary Technicians, Scope of practice, Opioid replacement therapy, dispensing and recording Pharmacist Only medications and so much more.
In recent years it has caused havoc in times of natural disaster when legislation has been invoked for Continual Dispensing and individual states had to enact the legislation within their own regulations.
As a locum I must allocate an area of my brain to remember what I can and cannot do in each state. Locums are very mobile plus we now have large pharmacy companies who move their staff around Australia. You have no idea how hard it is to remember what you can and cannot do in each state and territory.
This issue also impacts on how you teach undergraduates and interns. The graduate may attend a university in one state but then go on to practice in another state. As teachers we must be cognisant of the diversity in legislation and teach this diversity to graduates and interns.
Now we have COVID-19, which is producing a huge change management shift in practice for how pharmacists work in the middle of the supply chain between prescriber and patient.
The Australian Government Department of Health has released very helpful material e.g. Fact Sheet for pharmacists on Interim arrangements for prescriptions for supply of medicines: Supporting telehealth patients and healthcare professionals. Like all pharmacists I was excited to receive this communique then my head went into a spin when I was told it only was current for Victoria and the rest of the states would need to amend their current legislation to allow this to be functional.
GPs do not have these barriers why do we?
Can we not enact legislation and have the Federal Health minister use the current pandemic legislative powers to tell State Health departments this is now National law until 30th September 2020? The work arounds and the ‘yes buts’ are stretching our already frayed mental capacity to a point of complete disintegration.
Pharmacy is one of the most over regulated professions. We need to appoint an Australian Chief Pharmacist and we need to move to Federal legislation. If there ever was a more pressing time to make this system function far better than it ever has it is NOW.
Karalyn Huxhagen B Pharm FPS AACPA is a consultant pharmacist in Queensland