Common sense prevails on face masks


Lack of communication from official channels caused problems around the distribution of face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak, one stakeholder warns

In this week’s edition of Forefront, Pharmacy Guild executive director Suzanne Greenwood writes that the importance of collaboration between health care professionals and health bodies has been underlined by the emergence of COVID-19.

She noted that Government officials as well as the Health Minister and PM have stated that face masks will be made available from the emergency stockpile, for use by doctors, pharmacists and their staff.

“These are not for resale and are being distributed through Primary Health Networks, or PHNs, located across the country,” she writes.

“Unfortunately, due to a lack of communication from official channels, it seems that the message that these are to be made available to pharmacists and their staff did not get through to all PHNs and this has caused some confusion.”

This is not the fault of PHNs, she stresses.

“I have had a number of reports of any confusion being overcome through collaboration and goodwill on the part of PHNs and pharmacies.

“The PHNs know the pharmacies in their areas and know their needs and I suspect the staff at the PHNs have been as bemused as the pharmacists at the communication failure about who should get the masks.

“But people speaking to me have indicated that the issues have been resolved through common sense and the focus that PHNs and pharmacists share on improving patient wellbeing.

“This is an important outcome because PHNs are fundamental to our health system,” writes Ms Greenwood.

“They have been established with the key objectives of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of medical services for patients–particularly those at risk of poor health outcomes– and improving coordination of care to ensure patients receive the right care in the right place at the right time.”

She says that the way the face mask confusion was handled demonstrates the strength of the relationship between PHNs and pharmacy.

In a press conference about COVID-19 on Tuesday, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt pointed out that of the 15 cases confirmed in Australia, all have now been cleared of the virus.

He said that the Government had declared, as of February 21, the disease to be “of pandemic potential”.

“And that meant that we triggered all of the actions which were prepared in contingency. The National Incident Centre stood up. The national medical stockpile was readied. We have the National Trauma Centre, which runs the extraordinary AUSMAT or Australian Medical Assistance Teams, was put on standby.

“And it has been mobilised now for each of the three flights, as well as overseeing the quarantine processes at Christmas Island and at Howard Springs. And we’ve put in place the contingency plans with regards to the overseas flights and then the quarantine.”

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