Dispense discussion held

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Dispense discussion held

Federal Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor visited the Mount Gambier UFS Chemist this week to discuss Labor’s 60-day prescription dispensing policy.

In the latest budget, the federal government announced several health measures aimed at reducing healthcare costs, including the 60-day dispensing of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines.

From September 1, patients prescribed with common PBS-listed medicines will receive two months of medication for the price of a single prescription rather than the current one-month supply.

Mr Taylor was “deeply concerned” about where the Labor government was going with 60-day dispensing.

“Of course, we want to see cheaper medicines, everyone wants to see cheaper medicines, but we do not want to see it at the expense of the services that our pharmacies provide in regional towns like this,” he said.

“The risk with what has been proposed is that we lose a lot of those services that people rely on now for their health.

“Pharmacists, like this community pharmacy, provide services in the community that are not profitable and they do it as a service and we risk losing those.

“Whether it is delivery of Webster Packs to aged care or other delivery services, the real risk is this has not been thought through and we will lose the important role they are playing right now.”

UFS Pharmacy board member and deputy chairman John Williamson said the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations the local pharmacy provided were a community service.

“There is no great profit-making in that and any money we do make is ploughed back into the community by way of donations to sporting bodies and any worthy cause we can assist,” he said.

UFS Pharmacy chairman Terry Strickland said while everyone applauded reducing health costs, the decision has had an “unintended consequence”.

“Pharmacies are losing out significantly in terms of their dispensing fees, which for at least a decade and a half have been reduced every time there has been a pharmacy agreement or a new version of the PBS,” he said.

“The traffic that comes in off the street as a result of getting a script filled and people waiting five or 10 minutes, looking around and maybe buying something extra, means there is an impact on the retail sales as well.

“We have commitments to our members, they all get a discount on their purchases here and we have a range of associated health product services that are not your average pharmacy service, which GPs and the bigger clinics do not necessarily want to take on board.

“We are concerned the impacts of reduced sales for retail and reduced income on scripts are going to mean that we are going to have to somehow match the shortfall and that will have impact in some way.”

Member for Barker Tony Pasin was concerned about the potential consequences 60-day dispensing could bring for pharmacies.

“I am very concerned the change in policy to the 60-day dispensing rule will mean that pharmacies, like this one here at UFS, will either have to lay off staff or charge more for services, including some services that are currently free,” Mr Pasin said.

“That is a really bad outcome for the consumer and particularly here at the UFS where this is a business that is community owned, membership owned, it is a cooperative, all the profits are reinvested in lower fees, better services.

“I am equally concerned about communities I represent that are much smaller than Mount Gambier where this might mean we lose a pharmacy altogether.”

Mr Pasin said in these smaller communities, the pharmacist was the most qualified medical professional.

“Because they do not have general practitioners, because they do not have access to a hospital, it is the pharmacy people rely on for medical advice,” he said.

“To lose the pharmacy means you lose the pharmacist and, in some cases, it can be a 200km round trip to fill a script or get some advice.”

UFS Mount Gambier has also contributed $25,000 to the Mount Gambier and District Tertiary Health Scholarships to support local students to pursue studies in health professions.

“Quite often that money has engaged local people who have engaged in the health qualification to come back and work in the Mount Gambier area and we are at risk that a lot of those things will be unsustainable if this goes ahead,” Mr Williamson said.

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