A $200,000 emergency fund has been established to ensure South Australian community pharmacies significantly impacted by COVID-19 can continue to provide critical pharmacy services.

The Pharmacy Regulation Authority SA will oversee the program and provide access to qualified pharmacists and pharmacy assistants who have volunteered to undertake such roles, to ensure critical community pharmacy services can be maintained for a period of up to five days.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the funding would be used to maintain critical pharmacy services when the impact of COVID on a pharmacy threatens its closure.

“While South Australia has performed extremely well so far, we remain at risk, so it is important that we introduce measures now to protect these vital services.

“By ensuring our pharmacies can remain open, we will help to reduce demand and attendance at our public hospitals and emergency departments in the event of a second wave.”

Called the ‘Continuance of Critical Community Pharmacy Services Program’, the initiative aims to ensure all South Australians have access to pharmacy services, including medicine dispensing and counselling, dose administration aids (such as WebsterPaks), medicines for residential aged care facilities and opioid pharmacotherapy.

SA Health’s Chief Pharmacist, Naomi Burgess, said the program was established after concerns were raised that a small number of pharmacies, particularly single-practitioner pharmacy practices and those in rural and remote areas, may struggle to maintain their services in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak among their staff.

“Pharmacies impacted by COVID-19 will be able to apply for the program if their workforce cannot be immediately supported by existing options or locum services,” Ms Burgess said.

“We urge all pharmacies to establish contingency plans to mitigate the risks of loss of staff or the closure of the pharmacy due to a COVID-19 related event the fund will only be available to South Australian pharmacies that have exhausted all other options.”