Doing a proper clean

Issues with pharmacy cleaning processes during the pandemic revealed by survey, with script baskets highlighted as a risk

The majority of pharmacists are not fully aware of the proper infection control measures needed in a community pharmacy setting during a pandemic, new Australian research has revealed.

A survey conducted by the National Institute of Independent Pharmacy Research, Melbourne, saw 137 pharmacists quizzed in detail on the current activities undertaken in their pharmacies “in relation to the safety of the workplace environment for staff and patients”.

While the findings showed regular cleaning was taking place in all pharmacies, there were shortfalls in some key areas.

The use of gloves while cleaning was not regularly practised by almost half of respondents, while only 46% of respondents reported observing script baskets being cleaned and disinfected.

About one-third (37.96%) of pharmacists were aware of the two-step cleaning and disinfecting process, with only 18.98% of pharmacists practicing such cleaning procedures.

More than half of the surveyed pharmacists reported having difficulty keeping up with pharmacy practice and infection control guidelines during the pandemic, the research revealed.

The authors, pharmacists Zachary Sum and Charmaine Ow, said “as community pharmacies do not regularly employ professional environmental cleaning professionals to maintain hygiene standards, further education on the importance of wearing gloves during cleaning should be disseminated to pharmacy staff to ensure safe sanitation and hygiene procedures”.

They emphasised the importance of script baskets as possibly the “most highly touched objects in the pharmacy and… the medium of possible SARS-CoV-2 transmission between staff and patients”.

“With less than half of all surveyed pharmacists responding to the observation in cleaning and disinfecting procedures of script baskets, it highlights the blind spot in pharmacy attention to the identification of highly touched objects meant for targeted cleaning and disinfection”.

“The lack of understanding of the correct cleaning procedure and implementation could reduce the safety and hygiene standards of the pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.

“Pharmacists are one of the most highly trusted professions in Australia, and it is of utmost importance that they provide sound public health recommendations and implement adequate sanitation and infection control measures that can support the ever-evolving levels of an infectious disease outbreak emergency,” the authors said.

Although the survey showed most pharmacies were implementing an “adequate range of infection control and prevention strategies, a majority were unaware of the efficacy and correct infection control guidelines for their particular business setting,” they concluded.

“Certain gaps in infection control around COVID-19 were identified and highlighted for improvement; and it is hoped that the future corrective action strategies can help pharmacists uphold public health roles and minimize the community spread of COVID-19.

The last thing community pharmacies would want to become is a reservoir source of COVID-19 transmission.”

The study was published in the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy

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