The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia says medicine supply to Australian communities is in jeopardy if antigen testing is not provided to pharmacies as a matter of urgency.
The PSA is calling on governments to protect the frontline healthcare workforce, and to ensure pharmacies remain open, by providing rapid antigen tests for pharmacists and pharmacy staff.
While these tests are increasingly being used by governments to manage the risk of COVID-19 in various settings, like parliaments, most governments are yet to utilise these tests to protect many frontline healthcare workers, including pharmacists.
PSA National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman, said that as jurisdictions come out of lockdowns, rapid antigen testing must be used as part of the ongoing COVID-19 response to ensure pharmacies can remain open and communities have ongoing access to their medicines.
‘Whilst it is pleasing to see that some antigen tests have been supplied in Australia, it is time for these tests to be utilised more broadly across our health system, including in pharmacies,’ he said.
‘With jurisdictions reopening, it’s likely we will continue to see a large number of pharmacies identified as exposure sites.
‘Staff will still have to isolate and stores may have to temporarily close until PCR results are returned and deep cleaning has concluded. Rapid antigen tests expedite this process, returning results within fifteen minutes,’ he said.
‘During such closures, patients would need to source their medicines from elsewhere – and whilst this may be an inconvenience for those living in metropolitan areas, it would have significant implications on rural and remote communities.
‘We cannot have a situation where Australians are cut off from the medication that they need, and antigen testing is one of the keys to ensuring continuity of healthcare and access to essential medicines,’ said Associate Professor Freeman.
‘Professional football teams, schools, abattoirs and various other industries are already utilising this technology. In the meantime, our pharmacists and pharmacy staff are in the firing line, putting themselves at risk on a daily basis as they continue to provide their communities with access to medicines and health services.
‘It is the responsibility of governments to protect our healthcare workers and right now they are failing our pharmacists,’ he said.
‘It’s time to protect our frontline health workers by providing rapid antigen tests for pharmacists,’ said Associate Professor Freeman.