Managing your COVID-19 risk

woman pharmacist stressed about not finding medicine

Pharmacists need to be aware of COVID-19-related scam and phishing attacks as well as the risk posed by distraction and heavy workload

PDL has offered advice to help minimise risk for patients and pharmacists during the COVID-19 crisis, in a message to members.

“Increased workloads and demand can lead to physical and mental exhaustion and an increased risk of incident,” warns the organisation, which focuses on risk management and says it understands the current increased demands and workloads can lead to a greater risk of error or complaint.

“Contingencies to manage workload and staffing levels are vital at this time,” PDL says.

“Resources to remind the public of the need for respect and patience are available and include the PDL Rights and Responsibilities poster. Such resources also reassure staff they are supported in times of stress or conflict.

“PDL reiterates that pharmacy owners, pharmacists and assistants need to refer to and follow the advice of the government and representative organisations regarding the response to COVID-19.

“There is a large amount of information available which can lead to its own challenges. PDL suggests pharmacists utilise material provided by representative organisations, government agencies and banner groups.

“Many banner groups have filtered information for their members to ensure the most important information is available such as signage, protocols and support material.

“Recommendations include the use of signage to encourage clients to be understanding and respectful, to follow hygiene and social contact guidelines and be prepared to collect prescriptions later instead of congregating in pharmacies.

“Utilising technology such as SMS and online prescription ordering systems, electronic prescriptions where available and legislated (subject to State regulation) and using barcode scanners for all dispensing activities reduces stress and risk.”

PDL notes that its reporting data indicates errors are more likely when distraction, increased workload or shortcuts occur, and as a result it encourages pharmacists and staff to follow policies and procedures.

“Due to the unavailability of many medicines, pharmacists are reminded to use the computer’s generic equivalent function when substituting brands, if permitted, as errors can occur when switching,” it advises.

“PDL recommends pharmacists avoid providing multiple supplies of any medicines, unless absolutely necessary, as this practice may increase the risk for patients if an error was made in the supply, as well as potentially contributing to medicine shortages.

“The recent announcement by the Federal Minister for Health limiting supplies of certain medicines supports pharmacists faced with this demand.”

PDL also says it is aware of reports of email scams and phishing attacks linked to fake COVID-19 communications.

“To minimise the risk of cyber security breaches, be alert to this risk and only handle communications from trusted sources. Data breaches are more likely to occur at times of stress or distraction,” it says.

“The strain on pharmacists and assistants is also likely to increase with the commencement of the influenza vaccination season.

“Forward planning to ensure enough staff are available for the extra demand is important and thorough preparations should be made for the vaccination service.”

The PDL Practice Alert “Vaccination 2020 – Are you Prepared” released on March 17, 2020 is available on the member portal for further information.

Helpful links

PDL suggests the following links as offering excellent resources and materials for pharmacists about COVID-19:

For immediate advice and incident support, call PDL on 1300 854 838 to speak with a Professional Officers. PDL is available to support its pharmacist members 24/7, Australia-wide.

Pharmacists can also contact the Pharmacists Support Service on 1300 244 910 for peer support related to the demands of being a pharmacist in Australia during this challenging time.

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