Pharmacists critical in meds supply during bushfires and other disasters


The bushfires in Western Australia and South Australia and the prospect of a hot dry summer have reinforced the need for residents in areas susceptible to natural disasters such as bushfires, storms and floods to visit their community pharmacy to develop a disaster emergency medication plan, says the Guild.

All too often in disaster situations, medications and prescriptions are lost, leaving patients without essential treatments and with no record of what medicines they need to be taking.

Pharmacists, however, play a critical role in ensuring continuity of medicine supply to consumers in emergencies where they may have lost or do not have access to their medicines and/or prescriptions, says the Guild.

They also may be able to assist people who have lost or may be unable to access relevant identification, may have limited or no access to their funds, or may be attending an unfamiliar pharmacy which does not have their details on file.

Acting National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Tim Logan, says pharmacists can assist consumers by providing information on the most efficient options for accessing essential medicines during an emergency situation, including the use of any natural disaster prescription provisions.

“Being prepared for an emergency is, however, the best option for patients and consumers,” he says.

Queensland Health’s Disaster Management Unit senior director Dr Peter Aitken encouraged Australians who are taking prescription medications to try to prepare before being affected by a natural disaster.

“Every time there’s a disaster that has a significant impact across the community, people lose access to their medications and turn up at hospital emergency departments, often simply because there are no other places open,” he says.

He encourages consumers to see their GP or pharmacist to ensure supplies of the medicines are available. Those who have a regular pharmacist should ensure the pharmacist has a list of the medications they normally have.

In preparation for a natural disaster, an emergency kit should be assembled containing at least three days’ supply of medication.

Ideally consumers should have seven to 10 days’ supply and a copy of the prescription on hand, Dr Aitken says.

He also warned consumers against stockpiling due to the often limited active life of medicines.

“Medicines have a limited shelf life so people need to have a system of recycling medical supplies to ensure they remain effective in times of need,” Dr Aitken says.

He encourages Australians to see their GP in advance to discuss replacement scripts and extra supplies of medications.

“Having an emergency kit ready that people can grab at a moment’s notice can save them a lot of stress later on.”

Dr Aitken says consumers could get more information on how to stay healthy in the heat at https://www.health.qld.gov.au/disaster/heat/heat-wave.asp.

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