Standing ready

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Pharmacists have been recognised as having a key role to play amid unease about the novel coronavirus

Writing in this week’s edition of Pharmacy Guild newsletter Forefront, executive director Suzanne Greenwood has listed a number of recent crises in which pharmacists have been able to help their communities – as well as advice on how they can help patients concerned about the spread of the novel virus.

She cited a recent open letter from Chief Health Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, which the Guild forwarded to its members.

“I know that people with flu-like symptoms, such as those seen with this coronavirus, will often seek advice from their pharmacist,” Prof Murphy wrote.

“I am encouraging pharmacists, in coming weeks, to seek a travel history from such patients, asking them whether they have been in the Hubei province of China (including the City of Wuhan) or whether they have been in contact with people with the coronavirus infection.

“If the answer is yes, please ask your patient to put on a mask and present to their GP or Emergency Department (after first phoning ahead to warn them that they are coming).”

Prof Murphy also wrote that he is encouraging all stakeholders, including health and medical practitioners, to work together in their response to the coronavirus.

“A collective, coordinated response will be the most effective way for us to protect the Australian population against the virus,” he wrote.

Ms Greenwood said in her editorial that she wanted to stress that pharmacists “stand ready to help in any way they can in response to the coronavirus”.

“I reinforce Professor Murphy’s recognition that as the most accessible health professionals, community pharmacies are often the first point of call for people feeling unwell and so the Guild will continue to update you with the latest information available concerning the coronavirus.”

She also notes that, “The coronavirus situation is just the latest to hit in an already bad summer so far”.

“Emergencies and responses to them have continued to dominate the lives of so many people across the country recently and no sooner than we see some relief from one event that we seem to be hit with something new.

“Bushfires, dust storms, smoke hazes and hail storms all have affected community pharmacies not only in how they operate but also in how they respond in helping their patients and communities.”

On Tuesday, Prof Murphy and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt offered an update on the status of the coronavirus in Australia.

“As of this morning, there are five confirmed cases in Australia of coronavirus,” the Minister said. “Other cases will continue to be tested by state health authorities and as results are known they will be made available publicly.

“All of those five patients, we are advised, are stable, in isolation and under very high quality care.”

He said that on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee to reaffirm the elements of Australia’s national preparedness.

“The World Health Organization reviewed Australia’s preparedness two years ago as part of a global survey, and we were identified as being at the absolute global forefront of preparedness,” he said.

On Wednesday NSW Health confirmed that 16 people are now under investigation for potential infection with the virus, the ABC reports, and that two people who have confirmed cases in Sydney are almost completely recovered.

The ABC reports that deaths in China from the coronavirus now total 130, with more than 6,000 cases confirmed.

Read Prof Murphy’s full communique to pharmacy here, and the latest on the illness here.

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