National President’s Message: COVID-19 Update
13 March 2020
You will be aware of the significant escalation this week in the public health response to COVID-19 in the Australian community. This is consistent with global public health responses, particularly following the World Health Organization’s characterising COVID-19 as a pandemic. I am committed to keeping you informed of the latest updates so that pharmacists can play their part in protecting themselves, their colleagues and the Australian community. The next couple of weeks will be pivotal in trying to contain transmission of COVID-19 in Australia so that our health system can deal with the likely impact of this virus on Australian shores.
We have created a dedicated COVID-19 webpage to keep pharmacists updated on the latest information and advice as it becomes available. It contains links to up-to-date information, guidance and resources from governments and other trusted sources for pharmacists and your patients.
We continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and have dedicated staff working to ensure that members are represented and supported as you support the health of Australians on the frontline.
This week the Australian Government made two significant announcements affecting pharmacists:
COVID-19 health package
There were two measures in this package relevant to pharmacists. The first of these was the introduction of $25 million to a Home Medicines Service which will enable patients to have their PBS/RPBS prescriptions filled online or remotely, and have their medicines delivered to their home.
The second measure was $5 million to fast-track the introduction of electronic prescriptions through engagement with software vendors. This is expected to bring electronic prescription capability online within two months.
Other measures in this $2.4 billion package included expanded MBS funding for telehealth consultations which is expected to accelerate demand for electronic prescribing.
This week I met with senior Department of Health officials to discuss how the Home Medicine Service and electronic prescriptions will be implemented. PSA is working with the government to inform these measures and will provide members with further details as soon as they are available.
COVID-19 economic stimulus package
Business measures announced, including grants of up to $25,000 with a minimum payment of $2,000 for small and medium businesses that employ staff with an annual turnover of up to $50 million to support community pharmacies during the pandemic.
I know that many of you are concerned about the medicines supply chain, and on the background of current problems with medicines shortages, whether COVID-19 will exacerbate the situation. We are working closely with TGA’s Medicine Shortages Working Party to ensure that the medicines supply chain remains robust and that patients can access the medicines they need, when they need them. I have written to the Presidents of both the AMA and the RACGP to communicate to their members that the writing of section 49 prescriptions (known as regulation 24 prescriptions) has the potential to disrupt the supply chain and could mean that some patients have a disproportionate supply of medicines.
We are also working closely with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to ensure that continued dispensing arrangements can apply across Australia for medicines for chronic conditions, and that there is an opportunity to provide alternate supplies of medicines should medicines shortages be exacerbated by COVID-19.
PSA will continue to monitor this dynamic situation and I will write to you each Friday to keep you informed. Additionally PSA will use our communication channels – including our dedicated COVID-19 website and social media – to provide you with the most current and up-to-date information.
If you have questions or require support in your role supporting the community, please contact us via 1300 369 772 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associate Professor Chris Freeman