The report of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements has acknowledged the critical role played by community pharmacies during disasters
The report also called for the inclusion of primary healthcare workers, including pharmacists, in disaster management and planning bodies.
The report says Australian, State and Territory Governments “should develop arrangements that facilitate greater inclusion of primary healthcare providers in disaster management, including: representation on relevant disaster committees and plans, and providing training, education and other supports”.
Elsewhere the report highlights the importance of community pharmacists and other healthcare providers by stating they are generally the main point of contact that Australians have with the health system.
“They are the entry level to the health system and are a broad group, including general practitioners, pharmacists, Aboriginal health workers, nurses and allied health professionals. Primary care providers have valuable local knowledge and strong connections with the communities they support,” the report says.
The importance of continued dispensing during emergencies also is highlighted in the report.
“The Australian, State and Territory Governments introduced a number of temporary measures to address the difficulties in accessing medications during the 2019-2020 bushfires.
“To assist people who had lost their prescription or were unable to see a doctor, the Australian Government temporarily expanded ‘continuing dispensing’ arrangements… pharmacists were able to give patients a one-off, standard quantity of an eligible PBS medicine, without a prescription.”
National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said the recognition of the role of continued dispensing for patients reinforced the case for the measure to become permanent.
“Disasters and emergencies are by definition unpredictable, and we need to have this facility in place for when it is needed during a crisis.
“We need to be able to give the patients access to their medication, through the PBS, without a prescription when they need it,” Mr Tambassis said.
“Making emergency supply measures permanent and nationally consistent, would make life much easier.
“It would mean our patients don’t have an additional and unnecessary cost, or have to wait for action each time a crisis arises,” Mr Tambassis said.