Pharmacy organisations call for more personal protective equipment following a number of deaths among frontline pharmacists across the world
As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, it has become increasingly clear that there have been issues securing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to distribute among health professionals including pharmacists.
PPE that pharmacists have been advised to use in the presence of unwell patients includes masks, gloves, gowns, aprons and eye protection.
The COVID-19 virus is spread mainly from person-to-person in close contact with one another, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by the someone touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching mucus membrane.
Since February, PHNs have been authorised to provide masks that had been released from the National Medical Stockpile upon request to pharmacists, for use when in contact with potentially at-risk customers.
However pharmacists have reported difficulties accessing these as well as other PPE.
“We don’t have gowns for staff. We don’t have any masks available – they sold out weeks ago,” one pharmacist reader told AJP last month.
“None for us, none for customers. Eye protection? Are we all going to be sent kits with these items in them?”
This month, the World Health Professions Alliance, including FIP, wrote an open letter to the G20 leaders calling for coordinated action to ensure the security of the supply chain of PPE for all health professionals and healthcare workers on the frontline against COVID-19.
Dr Catherine Duggan, FIP CEO, said, “We have seen a number of deaths among frontline pharmacists, even in countries with a relatively strong healthcare infrastructure.
“Together, we are urging G20 leaders to find creative solutions to solve the current PPE supply problem,” she said.
“All our healthcare workers must be protected because they are taking great risks to continue to care for their communities.”
Pharmacists and pharmacy workers who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic so far include Pooja Sharma and Mandy Siddorn in the UK; Magdyel-Aghoury, in Egypt; at least eight community pharmacy staff in Spain; a 25-year-old pharmacy technician in California; Abdulshakur Hazhir Amiri in Iran; and several pharmacists in Italy.
No pharmacy staff lives have so far been lost to the virus in Australia.
Meanwhile the Federal Government announced last week that it will distribute 500,000 masks to pharmacy workers.
“This is a good start as there has been significant and increasing demand for face masks and PPE for pharmacists working on the frontline face-to-face with patients,” said PSA national president Chris Freeman.
“But we must ensure that pharmacists, like other frontline health workers, receive the adequate protection they need to care for their patients.
“While the advice from government regarding PPE has not changed, I will continue to work with the government on your behalf to ensure there is adequate supply of personal protective equipment when it is needed for you all throughout this pandemic,” said Associate Professor Freeman.
“I understand some of you are having difficulties sourcing the PPE through your PHNs. If you are please let me know and we will follow up with the PHNs for you.”
We want to know what your experiences have been.