Rising to the challenge


Federal politicians have thanked pharmacists for their pandemic efforts, but questions remain over protective preparedness

The first new sittings of Federal Parliament have sent parliamentarians thank pharmacists and other front-line workers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some highlighted the efforts of individual pharmacies in their electorates, while attention was also drawn to the more than 300,000 home medicine deliveries that have been undertaken by pharmacies around the nation. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt said this week (Wed 13 May) that “today is a day when we celebrate,
acknowledge and honour the work of our doctors, our nurses, our pharmacists, our allied health workers, our aged-care workers and our disability workers.

It is a day when we also acknowledge the extraordinary achievement and commitment of Australians in helping to fight COVID-19 and to flatten the coronavirus curve for Australia”.

Mr Hunt highlighted a number of key achievements during the pandemic, including; “In relation to home medicines—302,663 deliveries have been made to houses from over 3,600 pharmacies.”

He also celebrated the ramping up of telehealth services, saying more than $467 million in benefits have been paid. 

Also, 436 respiratory clinics were now are operating nationally, he said. Over 100 GP-led clinics were now completed more than two weeks ahead of schedule. 

One of the Minister’s higlighted achievements, the provision of PPE, “allocating 75 million masks, receiving 100 million and contracting for more than 500 million masks” was questioned by the Opposition. 

Labour Health Spokesperson Chris Bowen said the “huge efforts” to procure and produce PPE had been “very significant”.

“But the fact of the matter is that they have started from behind. As of January, there were around 21 million masks in the stockpile. We know that wasn’t enough, not nearly enough for a pandemic like COVID-19. We needed hundreds of millions”.

Mr Bowen said he was contacted by “literally hundreds of doctors, pharmacists, aged-care
workers and disability service providers—all of them desperate to find personal protective equipment”.

“Those workers saw what was happening to their colleagues around the world, and they were scared;” he said. “Yes, they were scared for themselves but even more so for their patients and for their families.

That’s why we set out the principle that no Australian healthcare worker should die because of a shortage of personal protective equipment”.

One MP who personally thanked pharmacies in their constituency was Dr Fiona Martin, Liberal Member for Reid, NSW. 

“Our pharmacies have had to contend with a surge in demand, with patients attempting to stockpile medications and a spike in pandemic related health concerns,” she said.

“Still, I have seen our pharmacies place the needs of the community first and work incredibly hard during this pandemic. One pharmacy in my electorate of Reid—Wentworth Point’s Priceline Pharmacy—provided free hand sanitiser to residents of Wentworth Point, Rhodes and Olympic Park over the age of 65.

“At the height of the panic buying we saw early on in the pandemic, Abbotsford Family Pharmacy were
phoning their most vulnerable patients to make sure they could get their medication, coordinating with competing pharmacies and sharing stock to make sure that the residents of Reid were looked after.

These are just two examples among hundreds in our electorate”.

 

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