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Pharmacist calls for the community to pull together to beat COVID

Towers Drug staff, Eva-Lena Crothers and Ronnie Steiner in full personal protective garb this week. Photo TWH

Bourke Pharmacist Peter Crothers is concerned about the possibility of an infection at the pharmacy. Photo TWH

Bourke pharmacist Peter Crothers has called the local COVID outbreak “extremely dangerous” and is calling on the community to follow public health orders and advice.

As the only pharmacy in the shire, Towers Drug Co plays a critical health services role, but almost a week after the lockdown was announced, with two local infections identified, Mr Crothers said pharmacy staff are still seeing people putting others at risk by not wearing masks, refusing to check in to businesses properly and continuing to spread false information about the virus and its treatment.

Peter is urging people to make sure they wear their masks correctly, treat staff with courtesy, and abide by the restrictions on access to businesses.

“We are seeing a lot of people who, despite the fact that the pandemic has now arrived in Bourke with a big bang, are still not wearing their masks correctly” he said. “Unless the mask covers both your nose and mouth and fits tightly at the sides, it can’t be effective, and you are putting peoples’ health at risk. It’s that simple.”

Poor mask wearing is one of the reasons that the pharmacy is now requiring pharmacy customers to stay outside.

Mr Crothers said he hasn’t been involved in any discussions about local pandemic preparedness and response.

“I think we are all just expected to do our own thing, which in a way is ‘situation normal’ but I don’t think it should be that way,” he said.

“I’m certainly not pointing the finger at local authorities, who I think have used all resources available to respond as best they can, but I don’t believe that higher levels of government have adequately anticipated the situation we are in, put adequate control measures in place, or communicated effectively enough.

“Sadly, we seem to have had political leaders in denial about the true nature of this virus and its ability to infect, and rather than be ahead of the game they are now playing catch-up.

“I worry most about my pharmacy becoming an exposure site and having to close down, at least for some days, and the potential implications of that for the local community, health providers, GPs, the Aboriginal Health Service, and services such as aged care.

“If we did become an exposure site, I’m still unsure what we’d be required to do. Talking to other pharmacies that have become exposure sites, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent approach, with NSW Health taking things on a case-by-case basis and some suggestion that it has a lot to do with available resources. Some pharmacies have been given clear orders and others have been left to their own devices.

“We’ve developed contingency plans in the event of becoming an exposure site, but I doubt we’d be able to avoid closing down, at least for a day or two.

“At very least we would have to do a deep-clean and have staff tested. It would take us a day to do the deep clean, but longer if we had to get in a contractor. And depending on the COVID-testing backlog, up to 3 days to get all our workforce tested and back at work, and even then, there would be a need for ongoing testing every few days. It would be very disruptive.

“And if our own staff were infected, the disruption would be even greater - it’s no exaggeration to say we could be closed for a week or more.

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