Guild welcomes new Queensland COVID-19 testing pilot, though PSA urges people who are unwell not to come into the pharmacy
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday morning that her state government will be launching a trial of coronavirus testing in community pharmacies.
The news comes a few weeks after South Australia said it was rolling out a two-week testing pilot commencing at several metropolitan pharmacies – the first Australian state to do so.
Queensland Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the pilot program was about making testing even more accessible.
“Until we have an approved vaccine for COVID-19, we will continue to rely on methods like testing to keep Queenslanders safe,” Mr Miles said.
“That’s why we’re launching a pilot program to trial testing for COVID-19 in community pharmacies.
“Each year there are over 458 million patient visits to community pharmacies –approximately 8.8 million per week.”
Mr Miles said community pharmacies across the state could take part in the pilot project over the next few months.
However it is not yet known exactly how many pharmacies will take part.
“The details of exactly how the trial will work are still being worked out in consultation with the Pharmacy Guild and other stakeholders,” a Queensland Health spokesperson told AJP.
“It is anticipated that this trial will augment current Commonwealth, State and private health programs by specifically making testing available to minimally symptomatic people attending pharmacies for treatment, and providing accessible additional venues for testing.
“Opportunistic testing of people with mild respiratory symptoms provides an additional layer of surveillance to Queensland Health.
“Pharmacists and pharmacy staff involved in testing will use personal protective equipment and hygiene measures to protect themselves and other customers.”
Ms Palaszczuk confirmed that pharmacists will be provided with relevant training to conduct the testing, with samples to be analysed by Queensland Health.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia Queensland Branch said it is “pleased” with the announcement, as Branch President Trent Twomey encouraged community pharmacies to take part in the trial over the coming months, once registrations commence.
“Queensland is leading the way on COVID-19 testing and this trial is another asset to protect Queenslanders,” he said.
“Queenslanders are already presenting in community pharmacies with possible COVID-19 symptoms. It makes sense to opportunistically test those members of the community with possible symptoms, as they are already attending the pharmacy for their medications and healthcare advice.”
He said community pharmacists will work with the Queensland Government “to ensure the success of the pilot”.
However PSA Qld Branch President Shane MacDonald reminded people not to come into the pharmacy if they suspect they may be infected with COVID-19.
“Patients who have respiratory symptoms should be undertaking measures to reduce the risk of transmission such as self-isolation,” he told AJP.
“Our message remains if you are unwell and displaying COVID-19 symptoms do not come into the pharmacy, stay at home and get a friend or family member to collect your medication or ring your pharmacy who can often arrange delivery, and if you need to get tested visit one of the designated testing stations.
“We don’t want people with COVID-19 symptoms specifically coming into the pharmacy just to get tested and we ask people with these symptoms to get tested at one of the many designated testing stations.”
Mr MacDonald emphasised: “This pilot is designed to pick up those people who have already come into a pharmacy and a pharmacist identifies as someone who should be tested.
“Pharmacies are health centres where people with chronic health conditions regularly visit so we don’t want to be exposing these at risk groups or the pharmacy workforce to COVID-19 unnecessarily.”