WITH record levels of overcrowding in Irish hospitals, community pharmacists say they could provide solutions to free up capacity in the health system.
Irish Pharmacy Union president Dermot Twomey, who owns the CarePlus Pharmacy in Cloyne, said the community pharmacy sector, if properly empowered, could do a lot more to help address the health crisis.
“The pharmacy sector is, as it always is, ready to step up to do more to support patients and provide care in our communities,” Mr Twomey said.
“Ireland’s 1,900 pharmacies are located in practically every community.
“But we need to be empowered to do so by the relevant authorities.” Mr Twomey said that the public was advised last week by the HSE to avoid emergency departments (EDs), with the HSE instead recommending they visit pharmacies and GPs.
“Pharmacies are of course well placed to provide care and health advice to those who need it,” Mr Twomey said.
“However, we cannot understand why the HSE is directing patients into pharmacies while consistently doing nothing to increase the range of clinical services we can provide.
“There is huge potential in community pharmacy and much more the sector can do to deliver on the Sláintecare vision of one universal health service for all, providing the right care, in the right place at the right time in turn relieving pressure on the healthcare system,” he said.
Mr Twomey cited examples of services he claimed pharmacies could start offering almost immediately, which he said would free up capacity elsewhere in the health system.
“A key priority amongst these is the development and roll-out of a national community pharmacy-based triage programme, including a minor ailment scheme, use of emergency medicines, and the treatment of minor injuries.
Many of these services were available in other jurisdictions, Mr Twomey said, and would potentially eliminate thousands of needless GP and ED visits each month.
“Providing greater opportunities for pharmacies to provide patient care would benefit patients and the health system alike.” In conclusion, Mr Twomey criticised health authorities for, as he put it, “sleepwalking” into the current crisis and, he claimed, for ignoring obvious solutions.
“The surge in viral infections across the country in recent weeks was predictable and predicted,” he said.