Ballarat pharmacies hope to have rapid antigen tests within weeks | The Courier


Ballarat is still short on rapid antigen tests across the city, potentially stopping essential workers from attending work later this week. From Wednesday, workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight will join food production workers in being exempt from close contact isolation requirements in order to go to work, provided they can return a negative RAT for five days and before work each day. However, with rapid tests in short supply, many essential workers are unable to access the tests in order to return to work after a household contact contracts the virus. The sign outside Ballarat’s main COVID testing site at Creswick Road said it did not have rapid antigen tests available on Monday, while pharmacies across the city have been out of stock for weeks. Pharmacist at Ballarat Family Care Pharmacy and Arch Medical Centre Pharmacy Paul Pickersgill said his pharmacies ran out of stock before Christmas, but he hoped for some to arrive next week. “We had an offer to prepay for some stock, which we did before the end of the year, which hasn’t arrived yet. We’re expecting it hopefully at the end of this week,” he said. IN OTHER NEWS: “That aside, we’ve got what we believe is guaranteed supply now for the next eight weeks. We’re waiting for the first drop to come this week. “My guess is that there’ll be a bit of a flood in the market in the next three weeks.” Mr Pickersgill said there were already essential workers who would not be able to go to work due to the lack of supply. “I’ve had two calls today. One from a friend who, at the moment, can’t do anything, can’t go to work, but he’s a close contact and I’ve got nothing to give him,” he said. “It is a moving target, but we should have had supply before they make these changes. “I saw a report this morning that said the state government has got some of theirs. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t filter through to all these people that need them.” Eureka Medical Centre Pharmacy pharmacist James Millikan said eight out of 10 people coming into the Dana Street pharmacy were enquiring about a rapid antigen test. “The last update we had from our suppliers is it’s going to be February, so it’ll be two more weeks before we get our hands on any, which is a little bit frustrating for everyone,” he said. “We’ve got our preferred partners that we buy our medications from and stock our shops with, and they’ve been doing the best they can for us, but they’re telling us February now. “At the moment, we’ve got an eight-week drop and every week we’ll get 500 rapid antigen tests, so that’s what we’re expecting to roll out in February – 500 a week for eight weeks. I dare say we will need every single one of them.” Mr Millikan said there was frustration from both customers and himself when it came to the lack of supply. “Just both of us just shake our heads and wonder how this has got to this point,” he said. “With the PCRs taking so long and the mistakes that have happened there, the government have backed themselves into this corner and now we’re relying on the rapid antigen test approach, which wasn’t Plan A for them throughout the whole pandemic, but now they’ve got no choice to use these devices and they haven’t planned ahead and we don’t have enough stock. Everyone’s just at a loss, really.” New stock could alleviate the pressure on pharmacies and retailers, but also potentially resolve issues with price gouging. Price gouging on the highly sought after tests has come under fire from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which said it had received reports of two tests selling for $500 online and one test for $70 at convenience stores. ACCC chair Rod Sims described some of the recent retail markups as “clearly outrageous”. “There are several businesses that have repeatedly come to our notice thanks to the information provided by the public. We are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging,” Mr Sims said in a statement on Monday. “We are looking in particular at reports of single tests being sold at around $30 or above from certain stores. For example, such sales have occurred from a number of King of the Pack and Metro Petroleum stores. “The complaints are limited to a small number of individual stores in these chains and the majority of stores in those chains have not been the subject of complaints to us.” Mr Pickersgill said he had experienced the price gouging himself. “Even this morning we’ve had a couple of people come in and say they could find two but they wanted this much and even online I saw this morning somebody was offering a five-pack for $90 or something, which is not quite but nearly double what they will be here,” he said. “We just make sure we’re doing the right thing and we have with all the tests we had prior to Christmas. This one was advertised as having a reduced price, so god knows what it was beforehand.” If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat’s story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.


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