Auckland COVID patients to be eligible for free medicines during isolation 

Thousands of COVID positive Aucklanders required to isolate under health guidelines will be eligible to receive a range of funded medicines delivered free to their home in a new initiative welcomed by health experts.

Under the scheme, patients will not need to consult a GP for a prescription or be required to pay for a range of over the counter (OTC) medicines to treat COVID symptoms. 

Prescription medicines will require a virtual GP consultation over video conference or phone and delivery costs of all medicines will also be fully funded during the isolation period.

The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC), the collective of the Northland and Auckland DHBs operating a regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has advised pharmacies in Tamaki Makaurau they can now register to be reimbursed for the delivery of prescription and OTC medicines for the treatment of fever, pain and dehydration – including paracetamol and electrolytes.

The NRHCC’s Whanau Home Quarantine (HQ) move will mean COVID-19 positive patients who have been advised to isolate by NRHCC within the metro Auckland area will be able to request selected OTC medicines for free delivery to their home without a prescription by contacting a pharmacy online or over the phone.

Din Redzepagic, pharmacist at Zoom Pharmacy, says the move is positive news for the potentially thousands of patients instructed to recover at home – particularly those on a limited income.

He says around 1.46 million people live in urban Auckland, approximately 90% of the region’s population, and the cost of seeing a doctor, purchasing medicines and having them delivered would be expensive for many residents – particularly if others in their household also test positive for COVID-19.

“The provision of funding for COVID symptom medicines is welcome recognition of both the cost and the logistical challenges of accessing health care for the potentially substantial number of Aucklanders who will be required to isolate at home in the coming weeks. 

Din Redzepagic

“With medicine home delivery also fully reimbursed it will mean that those isolating and anyone living with them will not need to risk interacting with others to collect their medicines,” he says.

Redzepagic says under the new initiative, pharmacists are also required to have discussions with patients about their broader prescription medication needs.

“What we know about the new scheme is that it will act as an intervention mechanism – allowing us to check in with patients about other aspects of their health care. 

“In practice this could mean a patient with a chronic condition who may otherwise have poor access to regular health care will be able to talk with a pharmacist about other medicines they are taking.

“At this point we may be able to help get them back on track and liaise with their GP if new prescriptions or additional interventions are required to support their longer-term health outcomes,” he says.

Redzepagic says it is hoped that the funding model could be rolled out nationwide.

“What we know about COVID is that its treatment regime is unlike any illness that the majority of us will have encountered.

“On top of the symptoms and the disruption to the family unit there is a great deal of anxiety that goes along with how day-to-day household logistics and access to food and medicines might be managed while isolating for weeks at a time.

“We know from our experience specialising in virtual health care that delivering medicines to the home of the patient and consulting with a pharmacist by phone can reduce or remove a number of the barriers to accessing medicines and taking them correctly” he says. 

Redzepagic says the Whanau HQ initiative will run from today through to 30 June 2022, with pharmacies that are able to provide home delivery services able to opt-in to the scheme on behalf of their Auckland patients.

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