RAT shortage causes ‘extreme impact’ on NSW pharmacists

Anton NilssonNCA NewsWire
Francis Tran is the owner of Bland Centre Pharmacy in Sydney's CBD.
Camera IconFrancis Tran is the owner of Bland Centre Pharmacy in Sydney's CBD. Credit: Supplied, by NCA NewsWire/Anton Nilsson

The RAT race is having a bigger impact on pharmacists in NSW than other parts of the country, and chemists in the state are also finding it harder to source Covid-19 jabs.

A survey of pharmacists showed four in five NSW respondents felt the demand on Covid-19 rapid antigen tests, or RATs, was having a significant or extreme impact on their workload.

That's higher than the national response rate of about three quarters to a Professional Pharmacists Australia survey.

Francis Tran is the owner of Bland Centre Pharmacy in Sydney's CBD.
Camera IconFrancis Tran is the owner of Bland Centre Pharmacy in Sydney's CBD. Credit: Supplied, by NCA NewsWire/Anton Nilsson

The survey also showed nearly 40 per cent of pharmacists in NSW were struggling to get enough vaccine doses, compared with about a third nationally.

Francis Tran, owner of the independent Bland Centre Pharmacy in Sydney’s CBD, said he hadn’t had any rapid tests in store for at least two weeks.

He said about 50 people had put their names and phone numbers down on a waitlist for RATs.

“We would like our customers to be safe but we can’t help them,” Mr Tran told NCA NewsWire.

“It feels really bad that I can’t help them.”

NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns said the lack of RAT supplies was a “huge failure”.

“The minimum obligation of any government is to provide the means by which people can determine whether they have this disease or not,” he said.

“We’ve got the worst of all worlds, you can’t get access to rapid antigen tests when you need them, or alternatively, they’re being sold in some cases for $100 for a single test.”

COVID-19 rapid antigen test
Camera IconRapid antigen tests are in short supply and high demand. NCA NewsWire / Nicholas Eagar Credit: NCA NewsWire

A spokeswoman for the government said its strategy was focused on keeping essential services open, helping students back to school, and supporting people at risk of serious illness from Covid-19.

She said the government had procured more than 50 million rapid tests, with another 50 million on the way over the next two months.

“These RATs are not being made available to the general public, but it is anticipated that the private supply of tests will pick up in line with the increased Government supply,” she said.

The spokeswoman said vulnerable communities including the homeless, disabled, asylum seekers and people in drug and alcohol treatment centres, as well as the Aboriginal Medical Services, had already received tests.

In the coming weeks the government plans to deliver tests to people living in public housing, specialist homelessness services, and out-of-home-care residential settings.

The pharmacy survey results come after a Sydney father of two faced court over an alleged theft of 42,000 rapid antigen tests from a freight depot in Botany.

Originally published as RAT shortage causes ‘extreme impact’ on NSW pharmacists

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