Pharmacists are having to pay for their own personal protective equipment due to failures by Primary Health Networks, says the Guild’s national president
Pharmacy Guild national president Adjunct Professor Trent Twomey has slammed the way PHNs have managed access to PPE for community pharmacists.
Speaking to Sally Sara of the ABC’s On The World Today, he said that “We’ve had examples of where pharmacists have had to buy and pay money to get personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their staff”.
While taxpayers had funded PPE for essential workers to manage situations like the COVID-19 crisis in NSW, the protective equipment is still not being made available to pharmacies, he said.
“Unfortunately we’ve had some pharmacists who have had to take themselves off the line for 48 hours while they wait on results,” Adjunct Professor Twomey said.
“I’m frustrated that my members are put at risk and my members’ patients are put at risk.”
He said he wanted PHNs to “do exactly what their name suggests” and “get off the couch, they get out of their houses and their office buildings and they go out and build relationships with local community pharmacists”.
“I mean, how are we supposed to do our job and stay open and protect our patients and look after our patients if they’re [the PHNs] not doing the job that they’re paid to do?”
Guild members have “having to pay money that would ordinarily be spent on more wages and more staff” to buy PPE, and “chasing their tails” finding creative ways to access it, he warned.
He told any CEOs of PHNs who were listening to the program to “Get off your arse, go out. Meet your local pharmacists and do your job”.
“Could you imagine the outrage if a doctor, a nurse or a pharmacist working in a NSW Health public hospital had to put their hand in their own pockets to go and get personal protective equipment to protect themselves?” the Guild president said.
“There’d be an absolute riot.
“A GP’d never put up with that. Why does a local community pharmacist have to put up with this?”
Community pharmacists and their patients had been forgotten, he said, pointing out that pharmacy, unlike some other frontline health providers, are unable to transition to telehealth.
“Pharmacists have stayed open. And we do that because we realise our communities need us. But we’ve got to protect our staff.
“We will not close, we will be there for you when you need us, we just ask that our staff have access to those Commonwealth Government stockpiles of personal protective equipment so they’re safe when we do so.”
He said the Health Minister and Department have been “receptive” to his concerns.
“He has issued the directive to his Department, the Department has issued the directive to the PHNs, the PHNs either are ignoring it, or what is probably more of the truth is that they just lack the capability to do it.”
He told the PHNs to “Do your bloody job”.
“My members are doing their job to look after their patients; you should be doing your job and looking after my members.”
UPDATED: a spokesperson for the Department of Health told the AJP that GPs, pharmacies and other healthcare providers located in an area declared a hotspot by the Commonwealth “can contact their local PHN to obtain additional PPE where they do not have adequate supply of PPE on hand to support their workers in providing services to the public”.
“Primary Health Networks receive requests for PPE from pharmacists in their region when a pharmacy does not have sufficient PPE stock on hand to use for its staff,” they said.
“The PHNs assess the request according to the Distribution of PPE through PHNs and provide an allocation to the pharmacy according to demonstrated need.
“The Government has taken on board the views and will be contacting the PHN to ensure they are providing PPE to healthcare workers in line with the decision of Government.”