A question of supply

Pharmacist MP raises the shortage of medicines issue in Parliament as concerns rise over supplies in a renewed pandemic surge    

Australian hospitals could face potentially life threatening shortages of crucial medicines if there was a renewed surge of COVID-19 cases, pharmacist and MP Emma McBride says.  

Speaking at the second reading of the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Bill 2020, in Parliament this week (Thursday 14 May), Ms McBride said “surveys conducted by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia show hospital pharmacists continue to be concerned at the lack of supply of key medicines needed to care for patients with acute COVID-19 symptoms and ventilators in case of sudden high demand”.

Ms McBride, the ALP Member for Dobell, NSW, said almost one in five hospitals —18 per cent—who responded to the SHPA survey had insufficient propofol to manage their full required ventilator bed capacity for even a single day.

The SHPA said “The critical need to safeguard medicines supply … is appropriately reflected in its listing as one of 15 key triggers for the progressive shift toward a ‘COVID-safe economy’…”.

“The SHPA wants to see a national plan for managing the demand for medicines based on the most up-to-date COVID-19 modelling on patient numbers.”

Emma McBride addresses delegates at MM2017.
Emma McBride addresses delegates at MM2017.

Ms McBride said an approach to promoting more Australian medicine manufacturing was needed in the post-COVID-19 era.

“The use of a just in-time approach to inventories can exacerbate these problems. While the issue of shortages of medicines and medical supplies is not new, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this into sharp relief.

When there is a sudden spike in global demand for a particular medical supply, combined with a disruption to normal supply chains, Australia is suddenly even more exposed to shortages—shortages which can cost lives”.

“That is why Labor believes that, as part of the post-COVID-19 response, Australia should adopt policies to promote stronger domestic capabilities for the manufacturing and delivery of critical medical supplies,” Ms McBride said.

Reminding MPs of the role pharmacists have played during the pandemic, Ms McBride said:  

“For many of our most vulnerable Australians who have been forced into isolation, pharmacists are often the only health-professional contact that those patients have had—be that through the delivery of medication to the home, via telehealth consultations or over the counter in a pharmacy.”

“It has been the pharmacist not only providing these services during COVID-19 but encouraging the most vulnerable in the community to reconnect with their local GP or allied health provider when, at times, their own health can take a back seat,” she said.



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