‘Better late than never.’

Pharmacy staff are now listed by the Victorian Department of Health for priority COVID-19 test results

Pharmacy staff have had “very mixed experiences” when presenting for COVID-19 testing and requesting to be prioritised as an essential worker, Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone told AJP last week.

This had been happening since the start of the pandemic, in both regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne, he complained. In some instances, staff in regional Victoria including Seymour and Echuca had to wait almost a week for results.

Meanwhile the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) told AJP that pharmacists should be receiving priority testing under the current regime, however there had been “some confusion from staff at testing sites”.

Mr Tassone has now highlighted that pharmacy staff have “finally” been listed by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services for priority COVID-19 test results.

He told AJP that prior to Thursday, there was “unclear guidance” on the DHHS website that community pharmacy staff were health workers that were to have their COVID-19 test results prioritised for processing and return.

“Better late than never,” said Mr Tassone. “Hopefully this can be applied consistently at testing centre level to minimise any unnecessary delays for community pharmacy staff returning to work.”

A government spokesperson has confirmed to AJP that they are working closely with staff at testing sites to ensure that all pharmacists and their staff receive priority testing.

The DHHS website now reads: “If you have symptoms of coronavirus you should get tested. When you get tested you should tell the person taking your test that you are a healthcare or aged care worker to ensure your test results are given priority.

“A healthcare worker is a worker who is a regulated health professional. This includes:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice
  • Chinese medicine (acupuncturists, Chinese herbal medicine practitioners and Chinese herbal dispenser)
  • chiropractic
  • dental (dentists, dental specialists, dental hygienists, dental prosthetists, dental therapists and oral health therapists)
  • medical
  • medical radiation practice (diagnostic radiographers, nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists)
  • nursing and midwifery (registered nurses, enrolled nurses, nurse practitioners, and midwives)
  • occupational therapy
  • optometry
  • pharmacy
  • physiotherapy
  • podiatry
  • psychology.”

“The Department is prioritising testing for all healthcare workers including pharmacists and their staff to reduce wait times as much as possible, so they can continue helping the community during this pandemic,” a DHHS spokesperson told AJP.

“Lab turnaround times are currently averaging around two to three days but there may be cases where this is longer. Positive results and results of essential workers are prioritised and generally communicated to the patient within 24 hours. We’re working hard to speed up the communication of negative results,” they said.

“Anyone with even the mildest of symptoms should get tested. Common symptoms are fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, and loss of sense of smell.”

As frontline workers, the Victorian community-based pharmacy workforce is also eligible for emergency accommodation if required to quarantine or self-isolate (the ‘The Hotel for Heroes’ program) after they were included in the program back in May.

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