Coping with COVID-19: the Royal Melbourne Hospital experience

This is the first instalment in our ‘Coping with COVID-19’ series, investigating how pharmacists across the country are dealing with challenges presented by the pandemic.

COVID-19 has fostered an even closer relationship between the pharmacy and wards of the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

‘Since the start, a number of changes in the hospital, including the pharmacy, have been implemented,’ clinical pharmacist Chantelle Bartlett MPS told Australian Pharmacist.

This includes establishing a screening clinic for the public and a separate clinic for staff members.

Everyone entering the hospital is temperature screened upon entry. If febrile they are sent for screening at the appropriate COVID-19 centre.

‘An immense amount of planning has gone into distributing resources and staff members to make sure we provide the best care for the patients coming into hospital while maintaining staff safety,’ Ms Bartlett said.

Chantelle Bartlett MPS
Chantelle Bartlett MPS

‘The clinical pharmacy service has moved from a unit-based clinical pharmacy service to a ward-based service and has been split up into COVID and non-COVID teams.’

This aligns with an organisational plan for COVID and non-COVID wards, within which are even smaller specialised teams.

The pharmacy has dedicated zones for each of the teams, ensuring there is no cross over of staff.

‘We have also separated our dispensary into two teams, an outpatient and inpatient pharmacy,’ Ms Bartlett said.

‘We are also looking into additional roles pharmacists can complete to assist the medical and nursing staff when the peak occurs, such as partnered pharmacist medication charting and assisting in the preparation of medicines.’

She has found patients and families to be extremely understanding of new restrictions, which include decreased visiting hours and a rule of only one visitor per day.

Availability of some medicines has been a challenge but a proactive approach has ensured that there is an adequate supply.

‘Getting patients home safely is our biggest priority so working together and communicating with patients, families, carers and pharmacies has been so important,’ Ms Bartlett said.

‘As everyone has been saying, this is a challenging time, but it has been amazing to see the hospital and the pharmacy department really come together and work as a team.

‘Everyone has been working so hard to make sure things run as smoothly as possible and we all feel supported.

‘Looking back, it’s been very humbling to see how essential pharmacy has been in all of this. Hearing the lengths pharmacy staff are going to in order to protect themselves and patients is extraordinary.

‘Before this, I don’t think people realised how much they are capable of and everyone should be really proud of the work they have put in.’

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PSA is hosting a live webinar on COVID-19: Your telehealth questions answered tonight 
(29 April, 7:30pm EST). PSA members can register here.