How will you handle temporary closure?

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The Victorian Pharmacy Authority has issued advice for pharmacies around planning for temporary closures due to COVID-19

“As part of contingency planning for the temporary closure of a pharmacy due to COVID-19, licensees are encouraged to prepare for and address a range of consumer expectations,” says the VPA in offering general advice.

As restrictions imposed to manage the progression of the pandemic began to relax around the country, stakeholders continue to warn that outbreaks can and will occur, underlining the importance of keeping up measures to contain them.

“Cases appear in mandatory quarantine. So we can’t pledge that, while there’s an international situation, that there will be zero cases in Australia,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News’ Kieran Gilbert on Sunday.

“But there can be outbreaks, and they’re the things we’re focused on, being ready to jump on an outbreak, wherever it is in Australia.”

The VPA says that several steps could be taken under circumstances of temporary closure, such as:

  • Informing consumers of the temporary closure;
  • Informing consumers how they may access their prescriptions kept on file, records and dispensed medicines and, where applicable, dose administration aids, pharmacotherapy, staged supply and deliveries, for example from another pre-arranged pharmacy;
  • Informing aged care facilities or similar about how dose administration aids and other pharmacy services will be managed to ensure continuity of care; and/or
  • Contacting as many affected consumers as possible, prioritising vulnerable or at-risk consumers.

“At a minimum there should be a clearly visible sign at the pharmacy informing consumers of the closure, the arrangements put in place and a contact number,” says the VPA.

“The pharmacy phone may need to be redirected or include an outgoing message to notify consumers of the circumstances. Other modes of communications may include email, SMS and/or social media.

“Where consumer records and dispensed medicines are transferred to another pharmacy, the privacy and confidentiality of the records must be maintained and used only for the intended primary purpose.

“When planning and putting measures in place, licensees should have due consideration for what the public would reasonably expect from the pharmacy in the event of a service interruption.

“Licensees may wish to take a proactive approach and advise consumers in advance what steps the pharmacy plans to take in the event of a closure due to COVID-19.”

Last month the VPA had said that it strongly encourages licensees to maintain a business continuity plan and consider taking steps in the event of a temporary closure, including informing patients about how they could access their scripts, records and dispensed medicines, as well as dose administration aids or pharmacotherapy if appropriate.

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