MEDIA RELEASE 12TH JANUARY 2020 – The National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA) has detailed the range of emergency measures deployed over recent weeks to meet the challenge of moving critical medicines supplies into Australia’s badly affected bushfire zones.
Medicines such as Ventolin and Insulin have been among those prioritised to reach bushfire impacted communities, while emergency provisions in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT enabling pharmacists to dispense medicines without a prescription have reinforced the need to keep medicines moving into these areas.
With towns on the New South Wales southern coast and parts of eastern and north-eastern Victoria completely isolated for several days, wholesalers have worked closely with the federal, state and local governments, the Pharmacy Guild, pharmacy owners, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the army, navy, police and fire authorities to solve issues caused by road closures. This has included arranging and overseeing medicine deliveries via air and sea to some of the worst affected towns, including Eden, Mallacoota and Merimbula.
“Our support and thoughts are with all those in communities impacted by the fires and the emergency services and volunteers who continue to stand at their side. The unprecedented and tragic bushfire season has put us all to the test and like other national infrastructure providers we have had to think quickly and find unorthodox solutions to complex problems,” said NPSA Chairman Mark Hooper.
“Pharmacy has been on the front line in the community setting and we have worked in close partnership with those in the affected areas to help them in the difficult task of providing medical supplies both to their local population as well as the additional pressure from tourists trapped in these areas.
“With emergency dispensing provisions now in place across Victoria, ACT and New South Wales, NPSA members play a critical role in keeping medicines moving into these communities to ensure that pharmacists have stock for their patients.”
In a dynamic environment, NSPA members have opened out-of-area distribution centres and utilised opportunities to transport during often short windows of road access, in some cases where roads are only open for a matter of hours or only accessible under police escort.
During the height of the New Year crisis NPSA members kept medicines moving into communities by:
- Supplying medicines, sea sickness tablets and masks for delivery to Mallacoota (VIC) via an Emergency Services flight and naval barge.
- Supplying medicines for a military helicopter flight to Merimbula (NSW).
- Working with a local transport company in Bairnsdale (VIC) to open an out-of-area distribution centre, enabling a pharmacist from Orbost (VIC) to load a trailer of medicines and utilise a small window of opportunity when the highway between Bairnsdale and Orbost was open.
- Re-routing delivery routes through Canberra – more than 500km diversion – to reach communities south of Nowra (NSW), including Bateman’s Bay (NSW) and Bega (NSW) with drivers staying overnight in Bateman’s Bay.
- Facilitating additional, emergency orders for communities in southern New South Wales, such as Eden and Merimbula, as well as delivering into Bateman’s Bay under police escort.
- Staging stock in refrigerated trailers in Newcastle to ensure a faster response time during small windows of opportunity when the roads where open to communities in northern NSW.
- Facilitating same-day delivery of Ventolin inhalers to emergency response centres in the Lakes Entrance (VIC) and Bairnsdale (VIC) areas.
- Working with Victoria Police to deliver medicines to Club Terrace (VIC).
“It is our privilege to provide support during this national crisis and I thank all our team members and partners for their professionalism and efforts to go above and beyond in support of communities in need,” Mr Hooper said.
“As the bushfire crisis continues and with much of the bushfire season still remaining, NPSA members remain fully committed to their roles as part of our nation’s emergency response network to deploy our people and our national infrastructure and logistics networks to ensure that we can meet that increased demand for urgent supplies and critical medicines during the ongoing crisis.”
NPSA members have also pledged donations to support impacted residents, firefighters and for recovery efforts, including providing hydration tablets and household supplies.
Contact: Myles Wallace on 0432 866 094 or [email protected]
The National Pharmaceutical Services Association represents CSO* wholesalers Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, National Pharmacies, Sigma Healthcare and Symbion.
*Community Service Obligation Wholesalers, on behalf of the Australian Government, supply around 300m PBS medicines per year to Australians regardless of where they reside within 24 hours of ordering.