As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is vital that community pharmacies continue to employ risk reduction and prevention practices, including screening patients who may arrive on site with COVID-19 symptoms and assisting patients who are isolating at home.
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change, it is important that all pharmacists stay up to date with local outbreaks, changing regulations and advice for managing infection risks and supporting patients.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic several regulatory changes have occurred to enable supply of medicines, including the provision for image-based prescriptions. Legal forms of prescriptions and medication chart orders provides a provides a summary of various legal forms of prescriptions and medication orders.
Updates are announced on NSW Pharmaceutical Services What's New.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia also publishes a helpful summary of COVID-19 regulatory changes for NSW.
For practical advice for pharmacists for managing the supply of medicines in the pandemic and assisting people in home isolation and for physical distancing, refer to Advice for pharmacists assisting patients in home isolation.
Advice is provided on:
There are specific limits on the supply of prescription and over-the-counter medicines to ensure equitable access to medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Details are published on the TGA website and it is recommended pharmacists regularly review information provided by the TGA. Limits on orders from wholesalers apply to ensure equitable distribution of stock, including to regional and rural pharmacies.
At all times pharmacists should supply medicines only in quantities that are appropriate for the person’s treatment. A poster is provided to assist with communication to customers.
Pharmacies should have posters near the entrance with advice for people with COVID-19 symptoms. These posters should carry the messages in languages common in the local community. The posters should make it clear that people with COVID-19 symptoms may not enter the pharmacy.
Implement a screening process and assess the risks posed by people presenting to the pharmacy. For example:
People who answer Yes to either question should:
Further guidance on implementing a pre-screening process and other example questions are provided in the CEC's COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Primary, Community and Outpatient Settings.
Key recommendations for pharmacies include:
Cleaning and waste management should be included in the pharmacy's COVID-19 Safety Plan (recommended). A template plan is available for use.
COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control guidance is available for acute and non-acute healthcare settings.
Further information is available on cleaning and disinfection in the workplace. The Australian Department of Health has also issued guidance on cleaning and disinfection for health facilities and in the community.
It is recommended that all pharmacists consider this possibility and develop a contingency plan in the event of a local outbreak of COVID-19. Pharmacists and business managers should consider:
Although it is otherwise illegal for anyone to take or supply anything from a pharmacy in the absence of a pharmacist, a non-pharmacist staff member could, on the direction of the pharmacist: