The Victorian Government has announced it will distribute face masks to vulnerable people, with community pharmacy listed as one of the places to get them – but one group has asked them not to come if they’re sick
The Victorian Government has announced it will distribute 2.1 million reusable face masks to vulnerable Victorians, Aboriginal Victorians and government health workforces who deliver health services.
Victorians who meet the eligibility criteria will be able to collect masks from several local government and community health services, including community pharmacies.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Victoria Branch President John Jackson welcomed the announcement and said PSA supports the supply of masks to vulnerable Victorians through community pharmacies as part of the public health program.
But he called on the State Government to ask people not to come to pharmacies to collect them if they have COVID-19 symptoms, or if they are waiting on the results of a COVID-19 test.
“It is important that people with symptoms of COVID-19 do not present to the pharmacy to collect a mask and that they send someone else to do so,” Mr Jackson warned.
This comment followed feedback from PSA members.
The PSA says an analysis of Victorians diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last two weeks has shown that 90% of people did not self-isolate between getting COVID-19 symptoms and getting tested and 53% did not self-isolate after being tested while awaiting results.
Mr Jackson said it is critical that those who are self-isolating or in quarantine do not present at a pharmacy and put pharmacists, pharmacy staff and other members of the community at risk.
“We have listened to our members and advocated on their behalf and I call on the government to pass these concerns on to all Victorians,” he said.
“Our members have told us that people who are self-isolated are confused as to whether they are to go to a pharmacy to access health care while in self-isolation and inconsistent information provided to people undergoing testing regarding requirements to self-isolate.
“To stop community transition and to protect the health of pharmacists and pharmacy staff, if members of the community have been tested or are in self-isolation do not go out into the public.”
Mr Jackson also said patients self-isolating or displaying symptoms of COVID-19 who need essential medicines should contact their pharmacy to discuss contactless options.
“There are a number of ways patients can access essential medicines from a pharmacy including home delivery services or sending friends and family to collect on your behalf,” he said.
In welcoming the announcement, he said that “Community pharmacies are an easily accessible location for members of the public to access masks and PSA supports this initiative by the Victorian Government,” he said.
“Pharmacists can make a judgement themselves on the resourcing they have available to participate.
Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone also welcomed the announcement.
“The Victorian Branch of the Guild welcomes the announcement by Premier Daniel Andrews of over 2 million reusable masks being made at no charge for vulnerable Victorians,” he told the AJP.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure there are no barriers in being able to access a mask now that they’re mandatory for wearing in the locked down areas.
“There has been some uncertainty at the community pharmacy level with the predictability of being able to reliably continue to have access to face masks in Victoria.
“Making reusable face masks available for vulnerable Victorians will hopefully also help ease the strain on finite supplies for other high priority areas needing PPE such as aged care and all healthcare workers.
“The decision to include community pharmacies as a distribution point for these masks is a recognition of the vital role we play as accessible healthcare providers for the public.
“We would encourage as many pharmacies as possible to opt in to obtaining these masks for eligible patients so that we can see the other side of this pandemic sooner rather than later.”
The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday released further guidance regarding workplace use of face masks with health care workers required to wear a level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical mask in public-facing areas.