Thousands of pharmacy jobs are under threat, and with possible closures, particularly in country areas, it is little wonder Tatura pharmacists Ashley Wiles and Andrew Gregory and their staff are concerned.
This comes from a shock Federal Government decision to alter remuneration to pharmacists under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The August 2 Economic Statement revealed unilateral changes to the pricing of medicines under the PBS without any consultation and in breach of the five-year Community Pharmacy Agreement.
As part of the agreement, the Commonwealth agreed to consult in good faith on any budget initiative which had a ‘‘significant and sustained impact on the viability of community pharmacy’’.
The changes may force some pharmacies to close their doors or slash important services for the elderly, very young or chronically ill, with the risk particularly high for the more than 1000 pharmacies in rural and regional areas, and for the 410 Australian towns which have just one pharmacy.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia National president Kos Sclavos said the unexpected change would leave each community pharmacy $90 000 out of pocket in 2014-15, when added to existing price change arrangements.
Mr Wiles told the Guardian last week that pharmacists support more affordable medicines for all Australians and they support the government’s mechanism — price disclosure — for achieving this.
He said the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which represents community pharmacies, has been working closely with the government for more than seven years, helping to reduce the cost of the PBS to the Australian taxpayer.
Mr Wiles said the Tatura Pharmacy, like all pharmacies across the country, use their income to employ staff to advise and care for patients, provide special care for older patients, including home deliveries and daily medicine packing, provide advice to families on baby care and children’s health, invest in product knowledge and training to better assist patients, as well as donating and contributing to community and sporting groups.
He said jobs, opening hours and services would be affected as pharmacies struggled to remain viable.
‘‘The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has not asked for the price disclosure changes, announced two days before the Federal Election with no consultation, to be reversed,’’ Mr Wiles said.
‘‘Nor are we asking people to pay a cent more for scripts. Pharmacies, like everyone in the healthcare industry, want patients and consumers to be able to access essential medicines at an affordable price.’’
Mr Wiles said the PGA supported the objectives of price disclosure and cheaper prescription medicines and had worked closely with the government for more than seven years to achieve that.
‘‘No-one is contributing more to keeping medicine prices in check through price disclosure than Australia’s 5300 community pharmacies,’’ the Guild said.
‘‘However, unless pharmacies are paid adequately to dispense medicines, patients will lose out through reduced services and opening hours, jobs will be lost and some pharmacies will be forced to close.
‘‘This is not in the interests of Australia’s real consumers who know the value of community pharmacies from the 300 million visits they make to their local pharmacies around Australia every year.’’
Mr Wiles said Tatura Pharmacy, like other pharmacies, was currently running a petition to the Federal Government seeking help to survive, and was encouraging local residents and customers to sign the document and show their support for the industry.
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