Local pharmacies struggle with lack of RATs, purchase limits to come for customers

Susanna Freymark

Casino pharmacist John Black has had enough.

“We’re under the pump,” he said. “We’ve been under the pump for two years. This has to change.”

McDonalds Pharmacy hasn’t been closed for one day during the covid pandemic Mr Black said but he is considering changing that.

“We’re going to have to start closing for lunch and on Saturdays,” he said.

Staff shortages have been exacerbated by staff leaving for a range of reasons including having a baby, changing careers and one staff member left because they weren’t double vaccinated.

McDonalds Pharmacy offers booster shots on Thursdays and Fridays only because Mr Black simply doesn’t have the staff available for more days.

There was no chance of pharmacy staff being able to administer the covid vaccine to children before school goes back, he said.

Mr Black blames government policy for the pressure on pharmacies including the lack of rapid antigen tests.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said.

It was a common story.

Soul Pattinson Scrivener & Webb chemist in Casino had a sign on the window letting customers know they didn’t have any RATs.

Bill Williams Chemist didn’t have any self-testing kits either.

Choice Discount Store had none and both major supermarkets were out of RATs.

Kyogle Chemist and Ritchie’s IGA Supermarket had no RATs.

On December 23, Premier Dominic Perrottet said the State Government would “procure rapid antigen test kits and make them available for free to people across the state”.

Federal Health minister Greg Hunt said the Commonwealth Government had secured more than 70 million rapid antigen tests which will arrive this month.

Amid all this, the public health orders will be updated next week so that people can report their positive rapid antigen test results.

If they can find a RAT.

With the scarcity of RATs, there has been a surge in price. A single test should cost $14.95 but there are reports of much higher price tags.

The Federal Government has introduced penalties for anyone who tries to on-sell the tests for more than 120% of their original price.

The penalties include up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $66,600, or both.

The government is also looking to establish anti-hoarding measures enabling shops and chemists to introduce a purchase limit of one box per person at any single time.

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