Crisis planning a disaster for pharmacy

Pharmacists need to be fully integrated into disaster planning, and remunerated for emergency care, experts say

Australia is falling behind in incorporating pharmacy into disaster planning, experts say.

A group of academics from the Queensland University of Technology, including well-known pharmacy academics Judith Singleton and Lisa Nissen say community expectations about the role of pharmacy in times of crisis are not being met due to legislative and planning shortcomings.

“During disasters, the community has the expectation that pharmacies will stay open late and supply
medications, sometimes in lieu of a prescription and money, until community services including health services return to normal,” they wrote in a letter to the editor of  the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.

“However, this expectation does not align with the restrictions placed on pharmacists by Australian legislation, nor is there provision for the reimbursement to community pharmacy owners for the
items supplied for which patients cannot pay.”

The role and responsibilities of pharmacists during these times of crisis need to be recognised and aligned with community expectations, they said.

The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) recently released guidelines to help pharmacists continue to provide effective care during natural disasters, outlining the roles and responsibilities pharmacists could be undertaking at the government, industry, hospital and community pharmacy levels.

FIP suggested expanded pharmacists’ roles could include emergency prescribing, prescribing and administering vaccinations, providing first aid, managing chronic disease treatments, triaging and screening, treating minor ailments, and dispensing and counselling on medications.

“When a disaster strikes a community, pharmacists are often the most accessible health professionals
for those seeking medical assistance,” they wrote.

“However, pharmacists in Australia are yet to be included in the four stages of disaster management – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

There are many expanded roles that pharmacists are able and willing to undertake during disasters. However, until pharmacists are included in policy discussions around disaster health management, these
roles will continue to be undertaken in an ad hoc fashion when the need arises”.


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