‘Absolutely essential’ that pharmacy gets national stockpile masks

A queue forms outside a Spotlight store. Image: @Kathblue via Twitter
A queue forms outside a Spotlight store. Image: @Kathblue via Twitter

One leading pharmacist has urged the public, and reps for non-essential products, to be considerate of pharmacy workers as demand for masks in the state surges

On Sunday, the Victorian Government announced that people living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be required to wear a mask when leaving home for one of four permitted reasons: shopping for food and supplies, care and caregiving, exercise, and study and work which cannot be performed from home.

The Andrews Government has planned an “inspection and enforcement blitz” to be conducted in workplaces across the state.

Reasons not to wear a mask include having a medical reason, being aged under 12, having a professional reason or when a mask is not practical, such as when out running – though people will still be expected to carry a face covering to wear when they can.

The rule will be enforced after 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July.

The mainstream media has reported a massive surge in demand for face masks as a result, with the Herald Sun reporting that customers were seen “climbing over each other” to get the masks at Chemist Warehouse, which is selling boxes of disposable masks for $50.

On Twitter, Victorians highlighted long queues outside pharmacies as well as retailers such as Spotlight, where the materials for making masks can be purchased.


Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, told the AJP that community pharmacy needs support around its role in this space.

“Community pharmacies are already reporting surges in demand from the public for face masks – but not only that, pharmacies are playing an important role in educating their patients on their correct use in terms of fitting and duration,” he said.

“This is Round Two in the heavyweight bout with COVID and again community pharmacy is up for the challenge and is continuing to be there for our patients.

“But we need the Government’s help at federal and state level to assure adequate supply of PPE and prioritisation of COVID test results for pharmacy staff.

“Given the upcoming mandating of the need to wear face masks in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire in Victoria it is absolutely essential that community pharmacy teams are able to gain access to masks from the national stockpile that are being distributed by PHNs.

“The Victorian Branch of the Guild has already made contact with the offices of Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Victorian state minister for health Jenny Mikakos highlighting this,” he said.

He said that to date, community pharmacies have had “very mixed” experiences in dealing with PHNs requesting access for masks, and with testing centres to gain prioritisation as classified essential health workers during the first wave. 

“Here we are again for Lockdown 2.0 and we would expect whatever misunderstandings or teething issues may have been apparent previously have been sorted out,” Mr Tassone said.

“Let pharmacies get on with serving their patients instead of haggling over whether they’re deemed important enough to be any sort of priority.

We also ask that the public be patient with pharmacies who are trying their absolute best to source supplies of masks.

“We are all in this with our community and are as frustrated as they are but we know if we all do the right thing together we will see the other side of the pandemic.

“Also for those territory representatives for companies that are for non-medicinal and for non-essential products (e.g. cosmetic ranges) we ask that you please follow the directives of the Victorian state government,” he added.

“If you can work from home—you must work from home. Pharmacies are already dealing with very challenging circumstances without having to address routine ‘drop ins’ from reps that aren’t at the request of the pharmacy.

“Help us all do the right thing together.”

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