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The PSA has recommended four budget measures to the ACT Government, including more pharmacist vaccination

The Territory could implement several no- or low-cost initiatives that would significantly improve health outcomes for Canberrans and reduce pressure on the region’s emergency departments, which are “at capacity,” the PSA said in its 2020-21 Pre-Budget Submission.

The Canberra Times recently reported on Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics which showed that the ACT’s hospitals were the worst-performing in Australia for most emergency triage categories.

It reported that at Canberra Hospital alone ambulance bypass mode has been entered at least three times, while corridors being lined with beds is a regular occurrence.

“There are 625 registered pharmacists in the ACT working in community pharmacy, hospital, general practice, aged care, territory and federal government and within other private sector organisations,” said PSA National President A/Prof Chris Freeman.

“Across the Territory there are 84 registered pharmacies who not only provide health care to our community but contribute to the local economy and employment.”

PSA recommended four budget measures to the ACT Government which it says it believes provide innovative solutions to address current health system challenges and improve the public health care system.

“The ACT has just experienced one of its worst flu seasons on record and had a number of cases of measles. Vaccination continues to be a vital health intervention in this country,” A/Prof Freeman said.

PSA has called for vaccinations to be more widely accessible through pharmacy.

“Pharmacists have been vaccinating Canberrans against influenza and pertussis since 2015 and pharmacist-administered vaccination has been shown to be safe, convenient and accessible.

“However, funding and availability of pharmacist-administered vaccination in the ACT has not kept pace with other jurisdictions,” A/Prof Freeman said.

“While the training pharmacists complete to administer vaccines is similar to that of other health professionals, such as nurse practitioners, pharmacists are unable to provide eligible Canberrans with a similar level of access to vaccines funded on the National Immunisation Program.”

Currently, accredited pharmacists in the ACT can only provide influenza and the diphtheria, tetanus, a-cellular pertussis (dTpa) vaccinations to patients 16 years and over without a prescription.

PSA has proposed allowing all authorised immunisers to provide the same range of vaccines and extending the age range to allow patients access comparable with other jurisdictions.

“This will improve access and equity for consumers and encourage public uptake of these vaccines by reducing financial barriers to vaccination,” A/Prof Freeman said.

“Almost half of Canberra’s pharmacies are already set up to deliver these vaccines, meaning this recommendation could be quickly and cost effectively implemented. In fact, we believe there is no direct investment required.”

Pressure on the hospital system could also be reduced by expanding pharmacists’ ability to provide care after hours for Canberrans with minor ailments and conditions, PSA says.

The organisation says it seeks the ACT Government’s commitment to provide funding of $2 million to support a two-year pilot of formal triage and referral services in six geographically dispersed after-hours pharmacies.

The budget submission also advocates for a full-time pharmacist within the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services and for the ACT to become a signatory to the Public Hospital Reform with the Commonwealth.

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