Information for Pharmacies Affected by Disaster
A disaster such as fire, flood or cyclone can cause a multitude of issues for pharmacies that can affect their ability to operate as a PBS pharmacy and may even require them to temporarily close or relocate.
Temporary Relocation or Closure
Pharmacies affected by disaster may apply for permission from the Department of Health to supply PBS medicines at an alternative premises for a temporary period.
If you do not intend supplying from alternative premises, but temporarily close to undertake necessary repairs you still need to let the Department of Health know. Any approved pharmacist that closes their pharmacy without obtaining endorsement to deactivate their pharmacy approval is at risk of having their approval cancelled. Information about deactivating a PBS approval can be found at:
To apply for temporary closure or relocation following a disaster, contact the Australian Government Department of Health by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to details of the disaster, provide the name of the affected pharmacy, its current PBS approval number, addresses of the current and temporary premises, and expected timeframe for return to the approved premises. An application should be made within 14 days of operating the pharmacy at alternative premises.
Pharmacists should be aware of the following:
- PBS Conditions – For supply of PBS medicines from the alternative premises, the Approved Pharmacist must:
- have approval from the Department of Health for PBS supply from the alternative premises
- have approval from the relevant state or territory regulatory authority to carry on a pharmacy business from the alternative premises
- be able to supply pharmaceutical benefits on request to the public from the approved alternative premises
- not make a claim on the Commonwealth for payment of supply of a pharmaceutical benefit that was never physically at or dispensed from the approved alternative premises
- PBS Claims – PBS Online claims for the supply of PBS medicines from the alternative premises can be made using the pharmacy’s existing Approval Number.
- PKI Replacement – If the pharmacy PKI certificate has been destroyed as a result of the disaster the approved pharmacist can request a replacement PKI certificate by downloading the form at https://www.humanservices.gov.au/health-professionals/forms/hw003 or phone Services Australia on 132 290.
- Ordering stock – The Department of Health will notify the pharmacy’s Community Service Obligation (CSO) Distributor of the pharmacy’s temporary move to enable stock to be delivered to the alternative premises but for urgent supply, the pharmacist should contact their wholesaler directly.
- Ordering PBS stationery – The Department of Health will ensure PBS stationery can be delivered to the alternative premises.
Stay at the alternative premises permanently
If the pharmacist would like to stay at the alternative premises permanently, an application must be made to relocate the pharmacy from the original premises approved prior to the disaster. Information on making an application to relocate a pharmacy is available at www.health.gov.au/acpa
Move to other premises permanently
If the pharmacist would like to move to other premises permanently rather than returning to the original premises approved prior to the disaster, an application must be made to relocate the pharmacy from the original premises approved prior to the disaster. Information on making an application to relocate a pharmacy is available at www.health.gov.au/acpa
Resume supplying PBS medicines at the affected premises
Prior to resuming supply of PBS medicines from the original premises approved prior to the disaster, the approved pharmacist should notify the Department of Health who will notify Services Australia as the supply of PBS medicines cannot occur from two premises at the same time. As soon as PBS medicines resume being supplied from the original approved premises the permission to supply PBS medicines at a temporary premises ceases. PBS Online claims for the supply of PBS medicines can be made using the pharmacy’s existing Approval Number.
The Department of Health will notify the CSO Distributor of the location change, but for urgent supply the pharmacist should contact their wholesaler directly.
Claiming – Missing prescriptions/lost paperwork
Although prescription paperwork no longer needs to be submitted for a PBS claim, the pharmacy must have records to support a claim in case of an audit. If your pharmacy has lost or damaged prescriptions due to a disaster you should complete a Statutory Declaration and keep it with your records for compliance purposes. The Statutory Declaration should include a statement about loss of prescriptions as a result of the disaster, and an undertaking that an insurance claim has not been made for any pharmaceutical benefits for which a claim has been paid by the Commonwealth.
A Statutory Declaration can be downloaded online from www.ag.gov.au/statdec or purchased from any post office or newsagent.
The pharmacist will need to liaise with the relevant state/territory pharmacy authority to ensure the alternative premises complies with any state/territory requirements to operate a pharmacy business. State and Territory Pharmacy Premises Authorities should be contacted in the first instance:
- ACT – Pharmaceutical Services ACT Health (02 5124 9208)
- NSW – Pharmacy Council of New South Wales (1300 197 177)
- NT – Pharmacy Premises Committee NT (08 8922 7341)
- QLD – Medicines Regulation and Quality QLD (07 3328 9817)
- SA – Pharmacy Regulation Authority SA (08 8357 8992)
- TAS – Tasmanian Pharmacy Authority (03 6224 9699)
- VIC – Victorian Pharmacy Authority (03 9653 1700)
- WA – Pharmacy Registration Board of WA (08 9328 4388)
Emergency Medicine Supply to patients
The following information may be of assistance to pharmacists supporting patients who require emergency access to their prescription medicines in the absence of a prescription, including patients affected by natural disasters.
What if the patient does not have a current prescription and cannot contact their doctor?
- For patients requiring urgent supply of a regular PBS medicine, pharmacists may dispense a single PBS quantity under Continued Dispensing arrangements without a prescription.
- While expanded Continued Dispensing arrangements apply to the PBS General Schedule, some medicines such as Controlled Drugs are not permitted under state/territory law.
- Expanded Continued Dispensing arrangements are in place until 30 June 2022.
- Only one Continued Dispensing supply can be made in a 12 month period.
- Supply of medicines under these circumstances must be consistent with Continued Dispensing requirements.
- If a patient does not have a current prescription and is unable to see a prescriber, state and territory legislation allows a pharmacist to provide a limited amount of a Prescription Only (S4) medicine without a prescription as emergency supply.
- The pharmacist must assess the situation based on the best available information and determine the patient has an urgent need for that medicine for continuation of their treatment.
- The conditions of supply may vary between jurisdictions but is generally limited to a three (3) day supply of medication.
- Some jurisdictions allow for the emergency supply of a standard manufacturers’ pack when the pack cannot be broken e.g. eye drops or inhalers and may make special arrangements during a natural disaster.
- Some prescription medicines cannot be dispensed as emergency supply e.g. emergency supply provisions do not apply to Controlled Drugs
- If clarification is required, contact your State or Territory Medicines and Poisons unit
- Emergency Supply in this manner cannot be claimed through the PBS.
What if the patient does not have a current prescription but can contact their doctor?
- A doctor can issue an electronic prescription either as a token or via a person’s Active Prescription List for dispensing at a person’s preferred pharmacy.
Owing Prescription – Digital Image Prescription
- In an urgent case where the patient cannot present a prescription but their doctor can be reached, the doctor may provide direction via digital means (e.g. facsimile) to the pharmacist to supply a prescription medicine.
- Until 31 March 2022, a Digital Image Prescription can be used for dispensing and PBS claiming.
- Digital Image Prescriptions cannot be used for Controlled Drugs or Schedule 4 Appendix D medicines. For these medicines, the doctor must forward the original prescription to the pharmacy within 7 days to cover the supply and to allow the pharmacy to complete any applicable PBS claims.
Owing Prescription – telephone
- In an urgent case where the patient cannot present a prescription but their doctor can be reached, the doctor may provide direction via telephone to the pharmacist to supply a prescription medicine.
- Where this occurs, the doctor must forward the prescription to the pharmacy within 7 days to cover the supply and to allow the pharmacy to complete any applicable PBS claims.
What if the patient does not have their Medicare, DVA or Centrelink card?
- If patients are unable to present their Medicare or Centrelink card the pharmacist can call the PBS Inquiry line 132 290 (press option 1), for assistance with a patient’s Medicare or concessional details.
- If patients are unable to present their DVA card the pharmacist can call the Veterans’ Affairs Pharmaceutical Advisory Centre on 1800 552 580.
- Pharmacists can use a Medicare special number if the circumstances fit.
The above is general guidance and is not a substitute for specific professional advice. Pharmacists must ensure they are familiar with the applicable State or Territory and Commonwealth laws relating to the emergency supply of prescription medicines in the absence of a prescription. In each circumstance appropriate records will be required.
Further information regarding PBS approvals and relocation or temporary closure can be found on the Department of Health’s website www.health.gov.au/pbsapprovedsuppliers or by emailing email@example.com
Members affected by a natural disaster seeking other information should contact their local Guild Branch for assistance.