Will sanitiser, Perspex shields become ‘the new normal’?

While pharmacists have made changes to their stores to keep staff and patients safe, only 11% of poll respondents say they have had access to enough personal protective equipment

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports of some pharmacies having issues securing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to distribute among staff.

PPE that pharmacists have been advised to use in the presence of patients who may be infected with coronavirus includes masks, gloves, gowns, aprons and eye protection.

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 some pharmacists have reported difficulties accessing other forms of PPE.

Among 384 respondents to the poll, which ran over the past month, only 11% (41 respondents) said they have had enough access to the full range of PPE including masks, gloves, gowns, aprons, eye protection for staff.

Only 13% (50 respondents) reported having access to enough masks, gloves and sanitiser for patients/customers.

Meanwhile nearly a third (31%) reported struggling to keep staff or patients safe without most, or all, PPE.

Forty-one percent said their pharmacy has had access to some PPE, but not all.

And 27% (105 respondents) said they have had trouble sourcing masks/PPE through the PHNs.

Sydney community pharmacist Caroline Diamantis told AJP: “We got masks from the PHN but that’s all we’ve really got.

“We haven’t got goggles – but we’ve got tons of sanitiser and the Perspex shields.”

Pharmacies have also been making changes to their store layout to enforce social distancing.

Ms Diamantis said one of the main things they’ve been doing to keep staff and patients safe is limiting the number of people in the pharmacy.

“We’ve been asking people to wait outside, my husband is acting as a bit of a security guard at the moment. People are getting it now, I don’t think they weren’t getting it when all this first started happening.”

She added that while they still want people to continue to shop with them, it will have to continue under the new dynamic – particularly with flu season approaching.

“I think this will become the new normal with hand sanitiser and the Perspex shields, our staff are feeling quite safe with those, and we’re exposed to flu every season anyway.”

While they may not continue with wearing masks in the long-term, considering them to be inconvenient, they would most likely continue with social distancing, said Ms Diamantis.

“I see this going through until summer, I think there is going to be a second wave,” she said.

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