Warrnambool pharmacists struggling to deal with customers trying to stockpile medicines and how to best serve elderly and chronically ill patients expect the federal government stimulus package to help.
Warrnambool pharmacist Mary-Lou Kay said some customers were concerned about the continued supply of medication.
"It's not a panic at this time. We're trying to reassure people there is no compromise to the supply of regular medication," the veteran pharmacist said.
"There have been a small number of instances, but it has not reached panic-buying proportions."
Ms Kay said her pharmacy already offered a daily delivery service.
She said those at high risk or who had recently returned from overseas trips, who had symptoms, were being asked to not come into the pharmacy.
"We will collect and deliver their prescriptions so they are not coming in and potentially spreading the virus to our staff and other customers," she said.
"We have all seen the Coronavirus situation in the supermarkets.
"We are currently not able to source hand sanitiser and face masks. We expect that situation to improve, but possibly not before April."
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman said his members would now be able to better support vulnerable patients following the announcement to fund home medicines services as part of its $2.4 billion COVID-19 health package.
He welcomed the announcement that $25 million would be allocated to fund home medicines services which will enable patients to have their
PBS prescriptions filled online or remotely, and have their medicines delivered to their home.
The professor said the measures would support the announced telehealth Medicare items for GPs to help contain the spread of the virus and allow GPs to conduct consultations via phone or video.
"However, the effectiveness of this initiative will depend on the successful roll-out of electronic prescription which the federal government has committed an additional $5 million of funding to fast track software capability," he said.
"PSA has been working with the government to build capability for electronic prescriptions for many years. Fast-tracking of e-prescriptions is appropriate to ensure people in isolation are able to receive their essential and regular medicines to maintain their health."
Professor Freeman said more needed to be done to support community pharmacy in the adoption and implementation of this initiative.
"This is particularly significant as we know that people with other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, are at higher risk of complications of COVID-19," he said.
Associate Professor Freeman welcomed the funding of home delivery services as a pragmatic measure to ensure those people unable to leave their homes were not out of pocket at a time they were more likely to be under increased financial stress
"PSA has been working closely with the Federal Government to highlight issues pharmacists on the frontline are experiencing in supporting their patients, including security of medicine supply, the availability of personal protective equipment, stockpiling of medicines and the continuation of emergency dispensing provisions," he said.
Australia currently has more than 110 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three people - aged 78, 82 and 95 - have died.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the funding aimed to boost the capacity of the health system to effectively assess, diagnose and treat people with COVID-19 while minimising its spread.
'We are ensuring people can access essential care in a way that reduces their potential exposure to infection,' he said.
An additional $100 million has been earmarked for a new Medicare service allowing people in home isolation to receive health consultations via phone or video call.
The telehealth service, which will be bulk-billed and available from Friday, will be provided by doctors (including GPs and specialists), nurses and mental health allied health workers.
It will also be available through Medicare for people aged over 70, those with chronic diseases, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant people, and new parents.
The Department of Health maintains face masks are unnecessary for the general population, saying surgical masks in the community were only helpful in preventing people who had coronavirus disease from spreading it to others.
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