Rapid test plan leaves pharmacy frustrated

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Ash Bolt

Pharmacies have been left frustrated after the federal government confirmed they would have to source their own rapid antigen tests (RATs) to provide free to concession card holders.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that National Cabinet had agreed to provide up to 10 rapid antigen tests to concession card holders over the next three months.

However Bannockburn Pharmacy shared its frustration online on Sunday after finding out the federal government would not be providing the tests to give out.

“Pharmacies were under the impression that the federal government would be allocating stock they have ordered directly to us pharmacies,” the pharmacy wrote on Facebook.

“This would have meant that pharmacies would have received stock around the same time making it easier for the community (if they hold a concessional card) to know when they could start collecting them.

“But this is not the case. Instead we have been informed the federal government expect pharmacies to source their own RATs to give away to concessional card holders and then somehow the government will reimburse us to cover our cost of buying them.

“Pharmacies still haven’t been informed how this will occur.”

The pharmacy said it was concerned the system would further limit the availability of rapid antigen tests, which are now the primary method of detecting COVID-19 infections in the general community.

“Pharmacies across Australia have orders placed, but like us, we all don’t know exactly when we will receive our orders and if our orders can be supplied in full,” the pharmacy said.

“Because pharmacies were under the impression we would be receiving stock directly from the federal government, means now pharmacies have to go back to suppliers to increase our orders and we don’t know when and if these increased orders will be fulfilled.”

At his press conference on Monday, Mr Morrison confirmed the government wouldn’t be supplying pharmacies with tests.

“They are not essential tests … [they are] additional supplementary tests that people are getting concessional to access to,” he said.

“They are discretionary tests that people are getting. They will get 10 of those, a maximum of five a month.

“They’ll come through the pharmacies and the pharmacies are responsible for securing their private supplies to meet that demand.”

Mr Morrison said anyone who needed to be tested would still be able to do so at testing centres.

“I want to stress anyone who is symptomatic or a close contact gets a free test. Always has, always will,” he said.

“That hasn’t changed and that is done through the testing centres and that will continue.”

Corio MP Richard Marles said it wasn’t good enough that “local small businesses are left to shoulder the burden” of the government’s plan.

“Scott Morrison has chosen to leave pharmacies in the lurch on rapid tests, offloading the cost on to businesses and households,” he said.

“RAT tests should be readily available and free, and because access to testing shouldn’t depend on your bank balance.

“This is a federal government that’s asleep at the wheel and doesn’t care.”