General News

Pharmacists at breaking point with ongoing RAT shortages

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is calling for patience and understanding from the general public amidst ongoing rapid antigen tests (RAT) shortages.

Extreme stock shortages and unprecedented demand continues to place significant strain on pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, stressed how challenging these past few weeks have been for the pharmacy workforce as a result of RAT shortages, combined with the commencement of childhood vaccinations and the booster rollout.

“The holiday period is already a busy time for Australian pharmacists, and the current situation with accessibility to antigen testing is only making conditions worse.

“With the National Booster Program in full swing and the commencement of paediatric vaccinations last week, pharmacists have now administered over four million COVID-19 vaccinations to Australians – an amazing accomplishment!

“However, this ongoing predicament with RAT continues to place huge pressure on the profession.

“Even though the Federal Government has secured additional RAT stock, supply is still expected to be sparse until mid-February. In the meantime, our pharmacists are working around the clock to source their own supply of these tests, whilst juggling a huge number inquiries from patients about stock availability.

“Pharmacists are being inundated with phone calls and inquiries, which is ultimately consuming a large proportion of their time – time which would be better spent vaccinating people against the virus, and even more importantly, allowing them to focus on their core function, medicine safety. Members have reported receiving on average, four calls a minute in relation to RATs. This is simply not sustainable.

“Governments keep telling people to get tested – and people are trying to do the right thing – but there is still a lot of confusion in the community.

“PSA and other health bodies were stressing the importance of securing RAT supply and establishing effective distribution networks with government over six months ago.

“Antigen tests are also available and being distributed through government testing clinics, free of charge – and I implore Australians to consider these services in order to alleviate pressure on our already-stretched pharmacist workforce, until stock shortages are solved,” he said.

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