Remote dispensing: keeping pharmacy staff safe

pharmacist phone query script refuse supply

Some community pharmacists have reported that patients are presenting with prescriptions from GPs – after they’ve been tested for COVID-19 and asked to go into isolation

There are reports from community pharmacists that patients are presenting with prescriptions from GPs – not for COVID-19 but other issues – after they’ve been tested for COVID-19 and asked to go into isolation, PSA national president Chris Freeman said on Twitter on Sunday.

“I ask my GP colleagues to give appropriate equipment for patients (where it exists) and send script to the pharmacy – most community pharmacies (if not all) will happily deliver,” he advised in response to the reports.

“We need to keep everyone safe including staff in community pharmacy.”

The Federal Government recently announced funding for pharmacists to provide home delivery services of medicines to people at risk.

Through this avenue, people in self isolation and those who are vulnerable (for example, the elderly or immunocompromised) will be able to order their PBS and RPBS prescriptions remotely and have their medicines home delivered to reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19.

However while electronic prescribing and dispensing capability is developing in Australia, it is not widely available, the Department of Health pointed out in a recent fact sheet.

“Some pharmacy chains currently support remote dispensing of prescriptions using a combination of mailed prescriptions, faxed/emailed prescriptions or electronic transfer of prescriptions (ETP) technology,” it says.

“All community pharmacies will be eligible to participate if they can support online dispensing of medicine and provide home delivery services. The Government will be working quickly with pharmacies to roll out this capability.”

Meanwhile the Pharmacy Guild has provided a guide in the scenario that a patient presents to the community pharmacy with indications they have COVID-19.

While community pharmacists are recommended to read the entire guide, a selection of advice from the Guild includes that: “Community pharmacies should have a space where you can isolate a patient/s who are suspected of being infected with COVID-19 as well as any accompanying family or carers.

“If a consultation or isolated room is not available, an area needs to be identified that will keep a patient or patients at least 2m from staff and other patients in the pharmacy,” reads the guide.

“This area should be able to be cordoned off when in use with a suspected COVID-19 case.

“Prepare signage for the room/area such as ‘DO NOT ENTER unless authorised and wearing PPE’ for use as necessary.”

It adds that community pharmacies should prepare appropriate signage at the pharmacy’s entry points asking people that self-identify as ‘at risk’ of COVID-19 to highlight this to staff immediately.

Additionally the Guild says for suspected cases, pharmacy staff should:

  • Immediately give the patient/s and accompanying family or carer a surgical mask and ensure it is fitted correctly.
  • Escort the patient/s and accompanying family or carer to an isolated room/area to discuss their condition.
  • Avoid direct physical contact with the patient/s and exposure to respiratory and other secretions.
  • Ensure staff dealing with the patient/s are wearing masks and other protective equipment (gloves, eye protection, aprons if contact is necessary).
  • Assist the patient/s to contact their doctor to arrange to be assessed and testing conducted.
  • If the patient/s is seriously unwell, or their doctor cannot assess them, arrange for transport to hospital. If necessary, by ambulance.
  • If the patient/s is able instruct them to return home and self-isolate until they have arranged with their doctor to be tested.
  • After the consultation, remove gloves/gown, perform hand hygiene, remove eye protection, perform hand hygiene, remove mask and perform hand hygiene.

The Victorian Government also supplied guidance on Monday tailored towards pharmacy staff.

It suggests that any pharmacy worker who has returned from any overseas travel and becomes unwell, or any pharmacy worker who has compatible illness, whether having travelled internationally or not, should seek medical attention for consideration of testing for COVID-19.

Clinical symptoms include:

  • Fever OR
  • Cough (with or without fever)
  • Shortness of breath (with or without fever)

Suspected cases notified to the department will be prioritised for urgent testing at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory.

Suspected cases must also self-isolate at home until provided with their test result and follow all medical advice.

Please view the full Pharmacy Guild – Guide for Community Pharmacy here

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1 Comment

  1. Pete

    Sadly the delivery payment is saddled with so much record keeping that the $5 payment doesn’t cover that, let alone the cost to actually deliver product.

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