Pharmacy plan ‘essential’ as cases rise

The number of infected Victorian healthcare workers has surpassed 1,000 as the Guild urges pharmacies to enact a COVID Safe plan

Victoria has recorded 322 new cases of coronavirus since Sunday, with the total number of cases now at 14,957, according to the 10 August update from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

This includes 1065 active cases among healthcare workers, up from 994 on Sunday and more than double the 400 active cases from two weeks ago.

The Victorian Government broke down the case figures last Thursday, finding that of the 810 active cases among healthcare workers on 6 August, nearly 43% of active cases were nurses while medical practitioners comprised just 6%.

Meanwhile 51% of cases were among “other healthcare workers”, a category comprising pharmacists, aged care or disability workers, dental professionals, paramedics, midwives and other allied health professionals.

In the wake of surging cases across the state, Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone says: “It is essential that Victorian pharmacies enact a COVID Safe plan under current COVID restrictions in Victoria that helps outline a pharmacy’s plan for: infection prevention and control, reducing overall risk of COVID and what to do in the event of a positive case amongst the pharmacy team.

“This was required to be enacted as at midnight on Friday 7th August for permitted businesses able to continue to operate during COVID restrictions.”

Mr Tassone said the Guild has provided template and other support resources to assist pharmacy owners to meet this requirement.

He added: “The Guild is continuing to actively advocate to ensure that there is no confusion as to being an essential health worker needing prioritisation for COVID testing, appropriate access to masks through PHNs where commercial supplies are not available and to the State government for a dedicated support fund for community pharmacies to offset the costs of cleaning and other serious impacts as a result of COVID.”

Community pharmacies have been able to gain access to personal protective equipment such as masks from private commercial suppliers as well as PHNs where required, said the Guild.

However PSA Victoria branch president John Jackson said that masks from the national stockpile have not always been easily accessible.

“Masks from the national stockpile are available from the PHNs however we hear reports that this source of supply has not always been readily forthcoming. Commercial supplies are becoming more available,” Mr Jackson told AJP.

While the majority of pharmacists and pharmacy staff have the advantage of maintaining distance and using counter-based shields when speaking with people, official PSA advice is that in areas of high community transmission such as Victoria, pharmacists must wear masks at all times at work.

Where pharmacists and pharmacy staff wear face masks, they should be medical grade masks such as type 1 surgical masks. Cloth masks and reusable masks should not be used, the PSA emphasises.

“Pharmacists need to ensure they maintain supplies of masks of an appropriate standard to enable them to be changed frequently to ensure effectiveness,” Mr Jackson added.

The Pharmacists Support Service 1300 244 910 is available to assist any pharmacist, pharmacy intern or student experiencing stress during the pandemic.

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