‘Pharmacists are anxious’: Among hundreds of poll respondents, most do not support COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies, as the Guild moves to reassure the profession
This Tuesday, AJP published a poll asking our readers their thoughts on COVID-19 testing in pharmacies, in response to an announcement by the Queensland government that it would trial opportunistic testing of “minimally symptomatic” people attending community pharmacies for treatment.
Both pharmacists and doctors expressed concern after public announcements that COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies will be promoted across the state.
As of 4pm on Thursday 20 August, 861 people have voted on the AJP poll asking “Do you support COVID-19 testing in pharmacies?”
Respondents could choose multiple options in the poll.
- The majority of respondents (73%, n=631 votes) voted: “No, this is a bad idea and puts staff and the public at risk”.
- Nearly half (42%, n=363 votes) said “No, they don’t pay us enough for this”
- A third (33%) said “No, I don’t think pharmacists are appropriately trained to conduct COVID-19 tests”.
- Meanwhile 15% (n=129 votes) said they supported COVID-19 testing in pharmacies, “but only if pharmacies are provided with proper PPE and training, and have a consultation room”.
- Six percent (n=53 votes) said “Yes, but only if the service is not publicly promoted and captures only incidental customers”.
- Just four percent (n=35 votes) said “Yes, I think community pharmacies are appropriate centres for testing”.
In response to the results, PSA national president Chris Freeman said: “I have never seen an AJP poll so stark in its results.
“The poll demonstrates that pharmacists and pharmacy staff are very uncomfortable with the decision by the Queensland Government to promote COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies. Reviewing the social media posts from the public following the announcement shows that there is also a lack of public support for the move,” said Associate Professor Freeman.
“Our members, and many Queensland pharmacists, have expressed grave concerns for their safety and the safety of their many patients who enter a pharmacy on a daily basis to receive medicines and care. Pharmacists are anxious, we need them to focus on their core role of medicines management and primary care.”
PSA said it remains concerned that people with COVID symptoms will present to community pharmacies preferentially before designated COVID-19 testing centres, despite public health messages that will be put forward.
“In fact, a number of PSA members reported telephone calls, and even people presenting already to Queensland community pharmacies asking for a test,” said A/Prof Freeman.
It is clear, pharmacists on the ground are saying NO to this idea.
The Pharmacy Guild Queensland Branch has attempted to reassure pharmacists over the testing pilot, emphasising that it is opt-in with the aim of “opportunistic” COVID-19 testing.
“Queenslanders are currently presenting in community pharmacies seeking treatment for their cold and flu symptoms – these patients already have an existing risk profile,” said a spokesperson from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland Branch.
“The pilot is an opt-in program to test patients when they attend a pharmacy seeking treatment for their cold and flu like symptoms. This will only bolster Queensland’s ability to respond quickly to potential outbreaks and gives pharmacies certainty around possible cases,” the spokesperson told AJP.
“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland Branch, is working closely with the Queensland Government to ensure that participating community pharmacies have a safe and seamless workflow from patient presenting to the community pharmacy, through to testing, notification and appropriate management.
“Community pharmacies are not replacing the existing specialised fever and testing clinics managed by the Queensland Hospital and Health Services that assess people who may be infected with COVID-19. The safety of community pharmacists, pharmacy staff and the public are of the utmost concern.”
The Qld Guild spokesperson added that participating community pharmacists will undergo mandatory training including how to safely undertake COVID-19 tests (swab collection), management of COVID-19 symptoms and isolation requirements – in accordance with Queensland Health directives, COVID-19 infection prevention and control, and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.