Pharmacy concerns go statewide 

THE resignation of Latrobe Regional Hospital’s director and deputy director of pharmacy, covered by The Express last month, was the subject of a recent ABC 7.30 Report story.

Director Anne Leversha and her deputy Lyn Billington tendered their resignation last month amid concerns resource shortages, notable to do with recommended pharmacy patient ratios and ward clinical pharmacy participation, had compromised patient safety.

The Express reported Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia national president Sue Kirsa confirmed she was aware of both resource shortage concerns at LRH as well as concern around the number of errors occurring in the administration of medication at LRH in recent years.

A subsequent letter in The Express from former LRH clinical pharmacist Elaine Maxtead also claimed the LRH pharmacy was never staffed appropriately and challenged LRH counter-claims there had been no increase in ‘error’ incidents as a result.She said that response had “no value”, adding “if the pharmacists are not available to check for errors, they just slip through, so of course they are not reported”.

Ms Maxtead, who also featured in the 7.30 Report story, said her former directors were both women of “the highest integrity” and claimed the LRH executive “could not, or would not accept the need for adequate resources, despite reviews acknowledging this”.

In the follow-up 7.30 Report story LRH chief executive Peter Craighead said LRH had asked for a business case to support the pharmacists’ push for increased resources but “we never received one you could actually put forward of relevance to a budget situation”.

Responding to concerns raised by the SHPA, Mr Craighead accused the association of “sometimes putting blockages in the way of… moving into a more contemporary delivery of pharmacy services” and he rejected claims LRH patient safety was at risk.

Mr Craighead said he found it “a bit galling they upset our community with these unsubstantiated allegations”.

Mr Craighead also denied he had “gagged” Ms Leversha in her efforts to draw attention to pharmacy concerns, saying she had raised those issues in inappropriate forums which was “not a professional way to do things”.

Ms Maxtead, however, maintained both Ms Leversha and Ms Billington were “above reproach” and their professional expertise had been ignored by LRH’s executive.

On Friday Ms Kirsa said SHPA was working towards finishing a set of guidelines on appropriate staffing levels for hospital pharmacies “as soon as possible”.

She said she imagined LRH pharmacy staff were feeling both “aggrieved and grieving” for the loss of two long-serving and well-respected colleagues.