COVID-19 testing in pharmacies will spread the disease “like wildfire” says union in declaring safety ban of trial, while PSA calls for moratorium
Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) has called on the Queensland Government to abandon its decision to set up COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies.
PPA Queensland Director Adam Kerslake said the union and other professional bodies had been trying to convince the state government to change its mind for weeks, but their pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
“The Government’s proposal is dangerous for pharmacists and dangerous for the community,” said Mr Kerslake. “It could turn pharmacies into COVID petri dishes and result in the pandemic sweeping across the community.
“Our advice to the community is that if this testing rolls out, stay away from pharmacies until the Government changes its mind – it is not safe.
“If this isn’t managed correctly, pharmacies will turn into COVID hot spots, spreading infection like wildfire across the state.”
Mr Kerslake said pharmacies were locations which COVID patients should be steered away from.
“They’re like supermarkets and shopping centres because they attract hundreds, if not thousands, of customers every day. We want people with COVID to head away from population centres, not towards them.
“Many customers in pharmacies are also the most vulnerable people in our community – from people requiring complex medication to those with multiple health issues, especially the elderly who rely on drugs for chronic illness and conditions.
“Many pharmacies have limited space, are crowded with people and are usually understaffed which is why it often takes a long time to get served. And most pharmacies simply don’t have a safe, separate space where testing could occur.”
In a poll run by AJP, which has been voted on by 1403 readers as of 7 September, 68% of voters said COVID testing in pharmacies was a “bad idea” that would put staff and the public at risk. Just 4% (63 voters) believe community pharmacies are appropriate centres for testing.
Mr Kerslake said PPA has declared a state-wide safety ban of the trial.
“This ban will not be lifted until our safety concerns are addressed. Pharmacy workers are frightened for good reason,” he said. “We will consider taking all steps, including direct action to protect the safety of our members.”
PPA has also started a petition on Megaphone calling on Queensland Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles to scrap the trial.
Meanwhile the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is calling for a moratorium to the trial.
PSA has previously told AJP that its members, and many Queensland pharmacists, have expressed “grave concerns” for their safety and the safety of their many patients who enter a pharmacy on a daily basis to receive medicines and care.
“PSA remains concerned that people with COVID symptoms will present to community pharmacies preferentially before designated COVID-19 testing centres, despite public health messages that will be put forward,” said national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman.
“In fact, a number of PSA members reported telephone calls, and even people presenting already to Queensland community pharmacies asking for a test.
“We do not want people who potentially have COVID-19 wandering into a pharmacy to get tested. It is clear, pharmacists on the ground are saying NO to this idea.”
The Pharmacy Guild Queensland branch told AJP it is “unable to provide comment at this stage”.
It has previously said it “supports the opt-in COVID-19 Testing Pilot in Queensland community pharmacies for opportunistic COVID-19 testing”.
AJP has contacted Queensland Health about pushback from pharmacists on the trial idea.
A spokesperson said: “The details of exactly how the trial will work are still being worked out in consultation with the Pharmacy Guild and other stakeholders.
“Opportunistic testing of people with mild respiratory symptoms provides an additional layer of surveillance to Queensland Health. Pharmacists and pharmacy staff involved in testing will use personal protective equipment and hygiene measures to protect themselves and other customers.”