Pharmacy COVID-19 testing trial to commence

South Australia is rolling out a two-week testing pilot commencing at several metropolitan pharmacies this week

SA Health has announced a two-week pilot that will allow community pharmacists to test patients for COVID-19.

Up to five metropolitan pharmacies will take part in the pilot, with eligible pharmacy customers with mild respiratory symptoms to be asked if they want to get tested while they are in the pharmacy.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the trial will capitalise on the trust and goodwill pharmacists have within their communities to improve access to COVID-19 testing.

“People often present to a pharmacy with mild cold or flu-like symptoms to seek advice from their pharmacist or to obtain treatment for symptom relief, and these are the very people we want to get a COVID-19 test,” Minister Wade said.

“We want to build on our network of more than over 60 COVID-19 testing locations in South Australia to make it as easy as possible to get a test.

“As part of our efforts to encourage everyone with symptoms to get tested, over the next two weeks we are trialling a pharmacy-based service where eligible customers will be asked if they want to get tested while they are in the pharmacy.”

Minister Wade said pharmacists already provide a number of health checks and immunisations including flu shots, blood-pressure and diabetes monitoring.

“This trial will see if we can partner with pharmacists to enhance our surveillance of COVID-19 in the community,” he said.

South Australia’s Chief Pharmacist Naomi Burgess emphasised that ongoing training and support will be provided to the pharmacies and pharmacists taking part in the trial.

“We worked closely with SA Pathology to develop a training program to upskill pharmacists in swab collection and infection control so they can provide COVID-19 testing for symptomatic customers over the age of 18,” Ms Burgess said.

“Making sure the pharmacists are safe and feel safe performing these tests is a high priority list and a number of infection control measures will be put in place, including ensuring pharmacies have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), swabs and pathology specimen bags.

“Increasing the availability of tests and making them as easy to access as possible will increase our State’s ability to respond to potential outbreaks.”

Making sure the pharmacists are safe and feel safe performing these tests is a high priority.—Naomi Burgess, SA Chief Pharmacist

Patients who agree to be tested will need to have a smartphone and register with the SA Pathology Personify website to receive notification about their result.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has welcomed the trial.

“As the most accessible healthcare provider, pharmacists are well placed to provide patients with COVID-19 tests which will allow a greater number of people to be tested in South Australia,” said PSA South Australia Branch President Robyn Johns.

“Some patients that enter a pharmacy may not think their symptoms are severe enough to visit the GP or a dedicated testing clinic, but as we have seen throughout the pandemic those with mild symptoms can still test positive for COVID-19.

“Suitably trained pharmacists are more than capable of delivering such services and I congratulate SA Health for this forward thinking common-sense approach that could lead to testing being available in community pharmacies across South Australia.”

The pharmacies involved will have appropriate physical locations such as private areas or consult rooms to conduct the tests, in line with the requirements of the project by SA Health, the PSA confirmed.

Meanwhile if people telephone a pharmacy asking for a COVID-19 test, they will be directed to the usual processes in SA for testing, which include contacting their GP and visiting a dedicated COVID-19 clinic.

To ensure the pilot only captures incidental customers, SA Health says the community pharmacy service will not be overtly promoted and pharmacists will identify eligible candidates on a case-by-case basis.

However the Pharmacy Guild has highlighted that there are risks associated with the trial, and encouraged any member pharmacy who has been approached to participate to contact the Guild for more information.

“It is the Guild’s understanding that SA Health is still in the process of finalising the details of the trial and will consult with the Guild regarding those details. Any pharmacy involved in the trial would need to carefully consider a range of risk issues associated with the testing of COVID-19 in a community pharmacy setting,” a spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild SA Branch told AJP.

“Whilst the Pharmacy Guild supports the government’s desire to make testing for Covid-19 more accessible for South Australians and recognises the important role that community pharmacists play as healthcare providers, we would welcome more detail on the trial, its purpose and how it would operate in order to ensure that public health outcomes are met, whilst at the same time protecting the health and wellbeing of pharmacy staff and patients.”

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  1. BundyAndrew

    Am I the only sane person in Australia that thinks this is the dumbest idea that community pharmacy or any public health service has ever had? Ever since March every doctors surgery in Australia has had signs up and messages on their websites and answering machines saying it is a requirement that if you are showing symptoms of COVID 19 DO NOT come into the surgery. Go and get tested at a proper testing center instead. These measures were put into place to protect the workers and vulnerable people who come into those places. Of course community pharmacies response to people coming into the pharmacy while symptomatic is not don’t come in while your sick, its ROLL UP ROLL UP get your COVID 19 test here! I am a registered pharmacist with 20 years experience in the industry and this is honestly the most stupid idea I have ever heard of. Does the pharmacy guild of Australia and The PSA really think that the best way to protect front line pharmacy from catching COVID 19 is to ecourage people to visit their local community pharmacy while they are symptomatic?

    • Dr Evan Ackermann

      The dumbest idea – yes. No-one has thought it through have they. Please go for your life – I hope you find +ve swabs, and I hope you know how to handle the inevitable false positives/negatives.

      Are pharmacists so disinterested in their profession that they would add part time pathology specimen collector to part time naturopath, part time nurse, and part time salesperson to their services?
      The prior “profession”of pharmacy is now lost in between the business interests of the Guild and trying to find an alternate community value in providing eclectic services.

      • TALL POPPY

        Agreed. Pharmacy will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of earning $$$ from the COVID vaccination even – I hope vaccinating staff have asked for a decent salary raise!

        Even pre-reg and early career pharmacists are not convinced (at least those smart enough to think for themselves). They shake their heads in disbelief at the bolt-on services and roles pharmacists are attempting. They know it is not what they were trained for. Not good. Pharmacy is currently looking for professional leadership…they are looking for a hero….

      • BundyAndrew

        Why is it that Drs take an opportunity like this to rag on pharmacists? The problem here is the PSA, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and most importantly QLD Health….after all its THEIR pilot program and aren’t they supposed to understand infection control? Get mad at them, I am. But please don’t rag on my profession I am a front line health care professional with post graduate clinical qualifications and worked for 4 years in a private hospital including an oncology unit so believe me i understand infection control. Oh and I will NOT under any circumstances be putting my staff and customers at risk by doing COVID 19 testing in my shop. Lets work together on this to tell the powers that be what a stupid idea this is

        • Dr Evan Ackermann

          Andrew I am sure you are not inferring that Pharmacists / Pharmacy should be immune from criticism.From your comments we substantially agree about the core issue here about COVID testing in pharmacy. (and I also agree with you comments on the Guild, PSA and QLD Health)
          This is another example of “expanded roles” for pharmacists which are poorly thought out – eg UTI management, involvement in “pain management”, mental health, diabetes screening, chronic disease management – on top of the roles in CAM therapies, “health services”, augmented S3 sales etc.. The recent study demonstrating potentially harmful medication advice in 30% of CM interactions should be a large warning bell, These alternate roles are impacting on Pharmacists / Pharmacy core role in the system of medication safety. I put to you the criticism is justified – a position which some on this post would agree.

      • Jarrod McMaugh

        Evan I will take this opportunity to again remind you that your comments – when broad and critical of the pharmacy profession in general – are unnecessarily damaging, and have contributed to individual pharmacists experiencing significant distress, which is especially unnecessary at this difficult time

        While I note that you have edited your comments, please keep in mind that while you have a right to be critical, your language and general demeanor towards pharmacists isn’t helpful.

        Please keep your criticism focused and be mindful of the negative impact these generalised criticisms have

        • actnowpharmacists

          Please don’t be a MOD to act like a censuring body. Let people have freedom of speech as long as they are courteous and making a point.

  2. Paul Sapardanis

    Does anyone think that testing for Covid 19 in a retail environment a good idea? The guild need to be stronger in their language and the PSA need to speak out against this. If you have cold/flu like symptoms please do not come into my pharmacy. Get tested at a designated outdoor testing area

  3. Mark

    As a previous pharmacy manager in a shopping centre pharmacy how is this a safe approach for infection control? Sure I may be able to make some money by upselling cough and cold remedies with multivitamins and immune simulators and a box of tissues and a medical certificate but why would I be putting my life, staff and other customer’s lives at risk from sticking a swab up someone’s nose?

    • Dr Evan Ackermann

      Clearly Government and community pharmacy have little insight into infection control let alone risk management.

  4. United we stand

    What a joke pharmacy has become! If you agree to perform these tests, you are putting your life in danger. Hope your boss has your back when it takes your breath away.

  5. AndreaB

    I support pharmacists taking on more clinical responsibilities as they are highly trained medical professionals however, I don’t believe COVID testing in the retail pharmacy environment is appropriate. The risk of exposure to customers and staff is just too high. Plus, retail pharmacies provide an abundant amount of surfaces for the virus to stick to (i.e stock on shelves, counter tops etc). Pharmacists are unsung heroes in the world of healthcare that definitely need to be allowed a broader scope but this just isn’t one of them

  6. Noel Slabbert

    I for one will definitely not be offering a Covid testing service.

    That is way out of my scope of practice. The last thing I would want to do is encourage people who are potentially Covid positive to come into my pharmacy. I have STOP signs inside and outside the pharmacy encouraging patients who have been exposed or have symptoms to contact the National Covid hotline, or their GP by telephone. Even the local GP’s have similar signs. Why would anyone want to encourage potential Covid patient to come into a pharmacy? I have at risk elderly and immune compromised patients in my pharmacy every day. Why would I want to potentially expose them to Covid in my pharmacy? The pharmacy is supposed to be a safe haven. All you need is one confirmed Covid positive patient to come into the pharmacy seeking a test and the next thing you are forced to close, conduct a deep clean and potentially have to isolate until you and your staff get test results back. So, who would foot the bill for all of this? Even our local GP’s are only doing testing in the carpark.

    As I am writing this, my staff are all walking in to my office asking if we will be offering testing. They are all horrified and petrified that we will be offering Covid testing (the Premier said pharmacies will be offering Covid testing on the news) So I guess the general public is going to assume this is the case as well.

    My task today will be putting up info signs stating that we do not do Covid testing and displaying information signs as to where the local Covid testing stations are located.

    • Mark

      Noel, I hope you will provide some feed back to the Guild and bureaucrats who think it is okay.

      • Noel Slabbert

        I certainly do intend to voice my opnion on this.

  7. actnowpharmacists

    For Guild and Some pharmacy owners, ANYTHING which’ll bring people into the pharmacy is considered OK. How is it a good idea to potentially infect anyone who happens to be in the pharmacy at that time purchasing nappies or for a baby with nappy rash issue.

    Most pharmacies i have been to do not have a separate entrance to the consulting rooms. The person who’s coming for a testing may also wander to isles to pick up some items while being there. While having Covid testing people weren’t allowed to go back the way they came in. How they are going to do that in a Pharmacy? Not seems like a good idea if you ask me.

    People will come into the pharmacy who think they might test positive which is considered a high risk situation even for some GP practices. They should be channeled towards testing facilities or respiratory clinics, not off loaded to Pharmacies where they may spread virus to a potentially larger set of population. Imagine tracing everyone who’s been shopping at the pharmacy.

    You see when it suits them Pharmacists become “More than capable” to act like pathologists but obviously not enough to charge medicare to provide repeat medications.

    PSA rather than trying to work on getting Pharmacist’s core competencies recognized and remunerated through proper medicare funding are just weaseling into areas they are neither familiar with nor competent at.

    • Paul Sapardanis

      What scares me further is that people cannot distinguish which pharmacies are testing and which are not. Infected people may come in thinking that ALL pharmacies are involved. The PGA needs to distance the rest of us from this bad idea. NO COVID TESTING IN PHARMACY!!!

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