Paperwork error sends locum into lockdown


Victorian locum pharmacist forced into quarantine after taking a position in another state 

A Victorian pharmacist is being forced by South Australian police to quarantine in a cabin after he began work in a rural town in the state’s mid-North.

The pharmacist had started work at the Aussie Discount Chemist Orroroo Pharmacy & Newsagency in the town of Orroroo, 270 km north of Adelaide, when police arrived to question his lack of appropriate authorisation to work in the state.

According to pharmacy owner Irfan Hashmi, the pharmacist’s exemption notice as an essential health worker was not with him when he crossed the border at the beginning of the week. It had instead been sent ahead to Orroroo. 

The South Australian authorities had not issued him with any notifications when crossing the border.

Mr Hashmi said locals were understandably concerned about police appearing at the pharmacy, and the locum being confined to the town’s caravan park.

With the pharmacist in lockdown, Mr Hashmi drove up from Port Pirie to take care of the pharmacy on Wednesday, but told AJP he spent a large part of the day “in communication with locals” attempting to reassure them that there was no signs the pharmacist actually had COVID-19 symptoms.

However, when he and the locum sought to have a COVID-19 test undertaken, they could not get a referral due to the lack of symptoms.

Local police did issue the locum with a temporary exemption, but then Mr Hashmi received an email from SA Health overriding this, and telling him the locum had to be quarantined in the cabin for 14 days, starting from Tuesday 30 June.

Police have been visiting the caravan park to check the locum is confined to the cabin, again raising concerns among the community. 

“You can imagine the talk going around a small town about this. I’ve had to deal with a large amount of calls, with people checking if i’m infected, if the locum is infected. I’ve just had to try to reassure them that everything is OK, and it’s just a procedural issue,” he said.

“I thought we had got everything sorted out when the police granted us the exemption, but it turns out this was just a piece of paper and not valid, so he has to self-isolate, and we have to try to find other arrangements for the pharmacy.”

The case was featured on a Seven News report in South Australia, with Mr Hashmi appearing. Also featured was epidemiologist, Professor Adrian Esterman, from the University of South Australia, who was critical of the issuing of exemption notices.

“I don’t believe there should be exemptions of this type, not with the situation in Victoria as it is at the moment,” he said.

“No worker is more essential than protecting South Australians”

At the moment, Mr Hashmi is working with pharmacy recruitment specialist Sue Muller, from Locum Co, to find another locum to cover the 14-day quarantine period, but he also expressed concern for the impact of the incident on the locum currently in quarantine.

“He has signed on to work here for six months, and I hope that once the quarantine period is over, he’ll be OK and not too badly affected by the stressful situation we’re currently going through here.

“This is really a case that’s been caught up in the heightened concern over the rate of infection in Victoria.”

The pharmacist in quarantine had been living in country Victoria and not in one of the locked-down parts of Melbourne.

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