Responding to Cyclone Gabrielle, Pharmac’s role in emergency management

Update Kauneke Update

In mid-February, Cyclone Gabrielle, a severe tropical cyclone, caused serious damage across the North Island. Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac started work immediately to help where we could.

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“Our priority was to make sure the people affected by the cyclone could continue to get access to the medicines, vaccines, medical devices, and related products that they needed,” says Gillian Anderson, Pharmac’s procurement and contracts manager, who led our emergency response team.

“We joined an incident management team being led out of Te Whatu Ora with representatives from community pharmacists in the affected areas. The community pharmacists gave us valuable insight into how we could help.”

Pharmac applied two special Pharmaceutical Schedule rules in Northland, Coromandel, Tairāwhiti, Tararua and the Hawke’s Bay – rule 5.5 (Pharmaceutical Supply Management) and rule 1.3.2 (Practitioners Supply Orders). These rules gave more flexibility to pharmacies in the affected areas so they could make sure people could access the medicines they needed.

“We used the Pharmaceutical Schedule to make it easier for pharmacies to distribute medicines and vaccines to those who needed them,” says Anderson.

“Pharmacies could use their discretion to adjust the frequency and amount of medicine dispensed. They were also able to order community pharmaceuticals on a practitioners supply order (PSO). This means that a prescriber could write a supply order for a pharmacy, ensuring medical supplies were available for use,” says Anderson.

With numerous roads across the North Island closed, Pharmac knew that continuity of supply could be an issue.

“We included wholesalers in the emergency response teams so that they could include funded medicines, devices, vaccines, and other treatments in supplies being transported to affected areas.

“We also worked closely with our suppliers to monitor stock levels. Collaboratively, we were able to mitigate most supply issues, although there were some small delays due to difficulties getting deliveries through,” says Anderson.

Overall, the work Pharmac did in response to Cyclone Gabrielle was a small part of a much larger and continued response. The collaborative approach meant the health sector as a whole was able to work effectively together to support whānau and communities through a very significant and devastating weather event.

This story is part of our Kauneke Update 

The Kauneke Update will keep you informed on important news and progress towards Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac's strategic goals. In te reo Māori, kauneke means to develop and move forward.