Australian pharmacists are calling on the Federal Government to urgently provide more rapid antigen tests (RATs) as well as adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for pharmacy staff as they struggle with crippling shortages of both essential items.
The Federal Government recently announced that RATs would be freely available for millions of pensioners and concession card holders at community pharmacies, but failed to ensure there was adequate supply in pharmacies. It has also failed to ensure the supply of adequate PPE for pharmacy staff – including those administering vaccination boosters for both adults and children.
Professional Pharmacists Australia CEO Jill McCabe said that pharmacists, who are trying to urgently roll out the booster and children’s vaccination program and also provide RATs to the community were at breaking point due to dire shortages of these vital items.
“Australia’s community pharmacists can’t do their job properly or safely without sufficient supplies of rapid antigen tests and personal protective clothing.”
Dr Geoff March, President of PPA said “The Federal Government’s announcement that RATs would be freely available for six million pensioners and concession cardholders, without providing adequate logistical support to ensure pharmacies had access to these tests, was reckless and negligent.
“The Federal Government’s announcement relied on pharmacies sourcing the RAT tests themselves, but a recent survey found that over 93% of pharmacists have reported major difficulties accessing any supplies at all.
“The shortages are taking a major toll on pharmacists themselves, with over 75% of pharmacists also reporting that the shortage of RAT tests had a ‘significant’ or ‘extreme’ impact on their ability to do their work.”
Ms McCabe also said pharmacists were having trouble accessing adequate PPE such as P2/N95 respirators and eye protection such as goggles and face shields and this was undermining the health and safety of pharmacists and the community.
“Pharmacists urgently require supplies of adequate PPE for the safe administration of vaccines. However, 25% of respondents to our survey indicated they were having to provide their own PPE.
Yet again the Federal Government has failed to adequately plan and organise the supply of essential equipment to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.
While the Federal Government has now advised it will provide temporary additional access to PPE from the National Medical Stockpile, only pharmacists administering the vaccine in community pharmacies will be eligible for this PPE and at the same time there are serious supply shortages.
“They are working hard to roll out vaccination boosters and children’s vaccination before the return to school but can’t do their jobs properly and safely without access to adequate PPE.
Original content from Professional Pharmacists Australia. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.
Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.