July 15, 2020

Pharmacy in times of COVID-19

In the current times of a pandemic, various Northern Health departments had to change their work processes and quickly adapt to the new normal.

Pharmacy is one of our departments playing an instrumental role in managing our response to the pandemic, and it has been involved in a few different ways.

“One of our primary focuses is the supply of medication. In the first wave, we were expecting to see a high number of patients coming in with COVID-19, so one of the key things was making sure we don’t run out of medication,” Angela Given, Medical Team Leader explained.

Another key priority is making sure patients had a continuous supply of their medication and prompt and safe access.

“With our high risk patients, we have developed a system where instead of them coming to hospital, we are posting their medications and doing education over the phone to keep them in a safe environment,” she explained.

Taking some learning from the overseas experience, pharmacy was preparing to ensure patients that would need ventilators and ICU care had the proper medication.

“We needed to make sure we have enough medication that supports patients on ventilators while they are on their life-saving treatment. It was also important that staff had training in new treatments, and pharmacy plays a key role in developing protocols and educating staff,” she explained.

One of the biggest changes for the small pharmacy department was splitting into teams, to make sure the team always had enough pharmacists available.

“In terms of the workload, the pharmacists have been upskilling in some of the areas COVID-19 impacted, like ICU. We have trained some additional pharmacists in case numbers get higher, and made sure the team is educated about new treatments as well,” she said.

Like with many other departments, the biggest concern was not knowing what will happen in the future and what impact it will have on the health service.

“We had to change a lot of our day to day processes, like medication ordering and patient education. For our team, it has been a process of changing and adapting and the team has come up with some innovative ideas of how we can do things, whilst managing their standard daily workload,” she said.

Now in the second wave, the team feels they have learned a lot from the first one. With the pandemic processes now developed, the team more easily changed back to a COVID-19 way of working.

“Making sure we care for all of our patients, not just the ones with COVID-19 is also our priority. We do a lot of patient communication with local pharmacies to make sure the care is continuing and that patients have access to medication when they are in community,” she said.

The communication with other hospitals has been great and others have offered to share resources during the pandemic.

“Our professional body enables us to share experiences all over Australia,” she said.

Featured image (left to right): Jeff Khoshaba, Surgical Lead Pharmacist; Nivein Yenis, Clinical Trial Pharmacist; Angela Given, Medical Team Leader Pharmacist.