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The decision comes after the review of a six-month pilot program that
extended the TIS National to pharmacies.
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The pilot program, conducted by the department and the Pharmacy Guild
of Australia, involved 331 pharmacies having access to the service 24
hours a day.
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Participating pharmacies will be able to use the Translating and
Interpreting Service (TIS National), operated by the Department of
Immigration, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president Kos Sclavos implored
pharmacists to use the service to prevent patients from
misinterpreting important usage instructions.
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"The interpreter service is not a full solution. The best solution is
to always have a staff member of that language. Pharmacies have been
very good at going out of their way to employ perhaps one staff member
fluent in another language. But because the trading hours of
pharmacies, it's very hard to have a staff member on at all times with
that language skills base. So this service fills in or augments
current practices."
Mr Sclavos said there were inherent problems with other multilingual
initiatives, such as printing instruction labels in other languages.
"The tendency to revert to a first language as experienced by some
older Australians, who have acquired English as a second language, is
one of the greatest issues facing our ageing population. This was
demonstrated by the heavy usage of the TIS services by post-war aged
European communities throughout the duration of the pilot. Pharmacies
who participated in the pilot used interpreting services more
frequently and reported improved outcomes in terms of client
understanding of medications."
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"You need to be getting that verbal and non-verbal feedback from the
patient that they have indeed understood the instructions and that's
why the interpreter service is so important because the interpreter on
the other end of the phone will ask 'now repeat what I've just
explained' or 'have you understood what I just said'," Mr Sclavos
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"As a pharmacist, if I was checking the prescription later and unless
it's dual-labelled, I couldn't be sure because I couldn't read that
language or couldn't understand the translation. The difficulty we
have with the dual-labelling approach is that we would be getting
complaints that the packaging is getting smaller and smaller and there
is no room to put a sticker on the packet. That's why the Guild=92s
policy is not to support automatic translations because it increases
the risk of errors."
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Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs Laurie Ferguson said
health care needs of recent migrants and elderly former migrants
necessitated the extension of the service to pharmacies.
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"Interpreting services are crucial for the proper distribution and
usage of prescription medicines by non-English speaking Australians,"
Mr Ferguson said.

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