South Australia has established an emergency fund to ensure community pharmacies can keep providing essential services
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade announced the $200,000 emergency fund on Tuesday, saying it would be used to maintain critical pharmacy services when the impact of COVID on a pharmacy at short notice threatens its closure.
“Ensuring access to medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the Marshall Liberal Government’s strong plan to protect South Australians from the impacts of the disease by ensuring they are able to access treatment for other health problems,” Minister Wade said.
“While South Australia has performed extremely well so far, we remain at risk, so it is important that we introduce measures now to protect these vital services.
“By ensuring our pharmacies can remain open, we will help to reduce demand and attendance at our public hospitals and emergency departments in the event of a second wave.”
The Continuance of Critical Community Pharmacy Services Program is aimed at ensuring all South Australians have access to pharmacy services, including medicine dispensing and counselling, dose administration aids, medicines for residential aged care facilities and opioid pharmacotherapy.
SA Health’s Chief Pharmacist, Naomi Burgess, said the program was established after concerns were raised that a small number of pharmacies, particularly single practitioner pharmacy practices and those in rural and remote areas, may struggle to maintain their services in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak amongst their staff.
“Pharmacies impacted by COVID-19 will be able to apply for the program if their workforce cannot be immediately supported by existing options or locum services,” Ms Burgess said.
“We urge all pharmacies to establish contingency plans to mitigate the risks of loss of staff or the closure of the pharmacy due to a COVID-19 related event the fund will only be available to South Australian pharmacies that have exhausted all other options.”
The Pharmacy Regulation Authority SA will oversee the program and provide access to qualified pharmacists and pharmacy assistants who have volunteered to undertake such roles, to ensure critical community pharmacy services can be maintained for a period of up to five days.
A Pharmacy Guild spokesperson said that “This is a very welcome initiative which has been developed by the SA Government in collaboration with the Guild and the PSA”.
“It is about ensuring continuity of vital pharmacy services and access to PBS medicines in circumstances where pharmacies would otherwise be closed an unable to serve the needs of patients.”
The news comes as three more locations in South Australia were highlighted in a Health Department alert: Fernwood Fitness in Salisbury Downs, Agha Juice House in Blair Athol and Najafi Carpet Gallery in Kilburn.
From Wednesday 5 August, gatherings at homes in the state will be limited to 10 people and standing consumption of food and drink will no longer be permitted.
Two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Monday in the state.