Crisis management

Does pharmacy have a role in disaster health management? Australian researchers think so

The role of pharmacists in health care management in a disaster situation has been traditionally low, but has increased since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, say Australian researchers.

A recently published study from Queensland University of Technology academics has revealed the view of international experts on the role the profession has to play in disaster situations.

Delegates at the 2017 World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine Congress in Toronto, Canada, were surveyed on whether pharmacists should play a role in disaster health management.

Almost all of the 122 delegates surveyed believed the profession did have a role to play, in addition to logistical support, in such a crisis.

A majority of delegates backed pharmacists capacity to undertake eight of 11 potential identified roles. The levels of support for these tasks were:

  • Logistics of pharmaceuticals and stockpile management – backed by 116 of 122 respondents
  • ‘Prescribing’ continuing chronic disease medication – 107 agreed or strongly agreed
  • Administering vaccinations – 99 agreed or strongly agreed
  • Developing drug algorithms and guidelines to streamline diagnosis and treatment options – 98
  • Educate public on health risks in disasters and those most vulnerable – 93
  • Assist decision making on health issues in disaster management – 92
  • ‘Prescribing’ vaccinations – 92
  • Communication advocate between different health care professions – 86
  • CPR and assisting in ‘first response’ – 52
  • Providing first aid and wound care – 52
  • Triaging and screening in evacuation centres – 42 out of 122 agreed or strongly agreed 

  Despite the increased focus on pharmacy’s role since 2001, the authors said much of this role had remained logistical in nature, “focusing on the procurement of drugs and medical supplies.”

“Recently there have been reports of pharmacists undertaking more clinical roles in disasters, e.g. focusing on optimising medication management and patient care. However, these ‘new’ roles have been poorly documented and would appear to have take place in an ad-hoc fashion during the response phase of a disaster,” they said.

The authors said there should be provision for essential services provided by pharmacies, and other health care businesses, during an emergency, to be included in disaster funding arrangements.

This would ensure continuation of primary health care, and help ensure pharmacies could survive the financial impact of providing emergency care during such a time.

The research was published in the journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine.

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