COVID rapid tests in short supply as Redlands, Logan, Scenic Rim chemists inundated with calls

FIREBALL: Chemists are supplying COVID self-tests free to concession card holders under a federal government scheme.
FIREBALL: Chemists are supplying COVID self-tests free to concession card holders under a federal government scheme.

COVID rapid antigen tests are still in short supply across Redlands, Logan and the Scenic Rim as they are made free to more than six million Australian concession card holders this week.

Pharmacies have reported RATs selling out within hours and receiving hundreds of calls from locals asking about stock levels amid the Omicron surge.

Tests are now free for concession card holders under a federal government arrangement, but it comes as chemists struggle to get their hands on stock.

One Redlands pharmacy said orders placed before Christmas had not arrived, with demand for tests surging after Queensland opened its borders in mid-December.

St Mary Pharmacy chemist Paul Ishak, based at Kooralbyn in the Scenic Rim, said the federal government had thrown a fireball at pharmacists with the free test scheme.

"All it has done is make people blame us," he said.

Thornlands Pharmacy owner Roger Shih said his store had only ever received a small number of rapid tests and it had not been enough to meet demand.

"As soon as we got it, it was such a small amount that it pretty much went within a few hours, maybe not even that," he said.

"Even IGA and Woolworths, from what I've been told, as soon as they get stock, by the time you get there it's basically all out anyway.

"You basically have to turn up at the right time, at the right place. That is why they [customers] are ringing every single day on the off chance we might have some."

The Australian Pharmaceutical Association called for calm last week amid the country-wide test shortages, saying unprecedented demand for RATs was placing a significant strain on pharmacy staff.

Association president Chris Freeman said the situation was making conditions worse for pharmacists during an already busy time of year.

Supplies are expected to be sparse until mid-February, despite the federal government securing additional stock.

"Pharmacists are being inundated with phone calls and inquiries, which is ultimately consuming a large proportion of their time," Mr Freeman said.

"Members have reported receiving on average four calls a minute in relation to RATs. This is simply not sustainable."

Home tests are also available at state government testing clinics such as Redland and Logan hospitals, but people must meet eligibility requirements. Beaudesert does not have a PCR testing hub.

Mr Shih said pharmacies still needed to source tests that were given away to concession card holders.

"Some people get a bit confused, they think you get an allocation from the government, which is not the case," he said.

Thornlands Pharmacy has been inundated with calls about RAT tests about every 10 minutes, but Mr Shih said most people had been respectful towards staff.

"Some of the feedback we got is that a lot of people have just given up and are probably just waiting for an announcement from the government, because obviously they have said it is going to improve," he said.

"But it hasn't, and a lot of them are probably just getting nowhere which is possibly why a lot of them have just given up."

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