Pharmacies a ‘frontline opportunity’ in disaster

Pharmacies offer a frontline opportunity to engage in community disaster preparedness, says a leading Californian pharmacist.

Speaking at the APhA’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Balitmore, Maryland, California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon Roth said that pharmacies can have a key role to play in managing the fallout from natural disasters.

“In California we have… the unpredictable, we’ve had significant fires in the last couple of years through our drought, we certainly have earthquakes and other potential disasters, tsunami from offshore earthquakes,” Roth told Pharmacy Times’ Meghan Ross.

“And we’ve really tried to engage pharmacists and pharmacies as being a frontline provider to assist those emergency management services in either evacuation or first responder in terms of mass immunisations or other sorts of services.

“Pharmacy really is a frontline healthcare provider in neighbourhoods and communities – we see that as a prime opportunity.”

Tasmanian pharmacist and state PSA president Rachel Dienaar, who experienced the Nubeena bushfires first-hand, told the AJP that the Australian experience would support these roles for pharmacists.

“Pharmacists are being trained as immunisers, and there has been discussion in various states around that, once it scales up, and how it would look in a disaster environment,” she told the AJP.

“I’ve had discussions with the Department around disaster management and they’ve factored that in; it’s a question of how we can coordinate pharmacists coming into this space, depending at the time where the gaps are.

“So I fully support this direction in terms of disaster management as well as ongoing management of immunisations.”

She says a key issue is educating consumers about their medicines and the importance of keeping a hard-copy list in the event that electronic communications and records are disrupted by a disaster.

“It would’ve been very handy during the fires if everyone had had their medication list!

“People need enough information about their medicines, in times when they can’t necessarily get access to a health professional, about what to do should there be a short supply of medicine – which medicines should they absolutely go to a hospital for, and which can they get away with not taking?

“We want to educate them around emergency management needs of their particular chronic condition – diabetes is a good example of something that you might need a strategy for, especially if you’re in a high-risk area for disaster.”

Dienaar adds that it’s vital that health professionals are also looked after following natural disasters.

“We tend to focus on the immediate disaster, and not really talk about what sort of health disaster we will have if we’re not supporting those supporting positive health outcomes – there’s a real chance of a secondary wave of disaster,” she says.

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