As Illawarra pharmacists innovate their service to help fight COVID-19 they are being supported by additional powers from the NSW Government enabling them to dispense medicines without a prescription and stay open 24/7.
When health minister Brad Hazzard announced special authority for pharmacists to assist people who can't access their GP it was welcome news for pharmacists such as Shabbir and Rehana Kermali, of Shellharbour Village Pharmacy.
Mr and Mrs Kermali started offering free home delivery of medication two weeks ago and have put on additional staff for what they consider an increasingly essential service.
Free medication deliveries proved so popular in Shellharbour they have extended the service to Wollongong and Kiama.
The Kermali's have also been working with doctors providing telehealth services. Which means those patients don't even need to bring their prescription to the pharmacy. The GP will do it electronically.
"With the COVID-19 pandemic we have been telling our patients that it is advisable to stay at home and stay safe," Mrs Kermali said.
"We have already been giving them the option of leaving their prescriptions at the pharmacy and we will deliver it for free.
:We had such a positive response we decided to offer the service across the Illawarra to give everyone the option to stay at home and still be able to receive their prescriptions and other pharmacy items.".
Mr Kermali said Shellharbour Village Pharmacy has introduced strict protocols for safe deliveries.
"We come to the house, leave the items at the doorstep, ring the bell and then step back four to five metres," he said.
"We wait for the customer to open the door to confirm their identity and the delivery of the item before we leave.
"You can't just leave medication at the door in case a child or someone else picks it up.
"If the person does not come to the door we try texting and calling them. If they are unavailable we take it back to the pharmacy and try again".
Mr Kermali said telehealth services have never been trialed on a large scale before but a successful application during COVID-19 could see it become more common.
"We are not an online pharmacy. We are a traditional good old fashioned customer service based pharmacy just doing things from more of a distance now," he said.
"We still contact the patient directly, ask them all the relevant questions, discuss what they are doing with the medication and how they are taking it.
"Once we have done all that we then organise free delivery ".
Shellharbour Village Pharmacy has already been doing 24/7 consultations so people can stay at home and ring a pharmacist at any time of the day or night on the normal business number.
Mr Kermali said the government has also given pharmacists the authority in an emergency to continue existing medications for chronic diseases.
"For instance if you have run out of your blood pressure medication and the pharmacist is convinced this is what you take and have been taking regularly, then we can supply the medication," he said.
"It is a temporary measure to ease the burden on the GPs".
Families can also take advantage of pharmacists now being able to administer flu vaccines to anyone over 10 years of age.
Because of demand reservations are required.
"We have seen an overwhelming response for that," Mr Kermali said.
"We ran out of our first batch very quickly and we are about to get our second batch.
"For any person coming to the pharmacy there are signs outside and inside.
"People are screened first to see if they are at any risk of having the coronavirus. If they are we ask them to contact their doctor or call emergency".
The Illawarra Mercury has launched a Taking Care of Business campaign.
Each day we will highlight a local business who is adapting or evolving to be able to keep operating under these trying times.
If you know of a business adapting, please send us an email titled Taking Care of Business to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have also put a call out and will run a list of cafes, restaurants and clubs who are offering takeaway or delivery on our Facebook page. If you know of an outlet now offering home delivery or takeaway, please let us know and add it to the list.
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