FEARS of job losses and exacerbated drug shortages have been expressed by a New Norfolk pharmacist in the lead-up to next month’s federal Budget which is expected to allow 60-day dispensing for more than 300 medicines. Local Guardian pharmacy owner Bel Bird said there had been no consultation on the proposal.
Speaking in a video posted on her pharmacy’s Facebook page, Ms Bird said it had been announced last Thursday that as a budgetary measure the federal government would allow the dispensing of a two month supply of some medications.
“It sounds great as a newspaper headline,” Ms Bird said. “Sixty-day dispensing, it’s called, so you get two packets of medication instead of one, when you come in,” she said. Ms Bird said every pharmacist in Australia supported the provision of affordable medications for Australians, but the proposed change could make community pharmacies unviable by halving their dispensing role.
“This sudden halving in dispensing is likely to leave us in a position where 30% of pharmacy jobs will have to go. That’s what I had to tell my team this morning,” Ms Bird said. “No pharmacy owner I know has slept since Thursday night, just thinking about the ramifications of this [and] how we’re going to continue to deliver the best possible care on an absolutely decimated budget.”
The federal Member for Lyons, Brian Mitchell MHR, told New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News that he had been contacted by a number of pharmacists on this issue. “While I can’t comment on matters that may or may not be in the Budget, I’m aware of their concerns and have written to them today, inviting them to put into writing what effect 60-day dispensing would have on their businesses. Once I have that information I will refer it up the chain,” Mr Mitchell said.
Ms Bird said there would also be significant impacts for customers, particularly when the supply chain was already under pressure, leaving many medications out of stock. “I can guarantee you that when 60-day dispensing comes in, we will end up with some percentage of the population hoarding and the rest will be missing out. And the ones who missed out will be forced to go back to their doctors to find an alternative which is going to put more pressure on GPs and cost the government more money that way. There has also been no clarification on whether patients will pay a single or double co-payment for the 60 days supply, so patients may not save any money either.”
Ms Bird said because there had been no discussions with the Government, the whole list of medications involved was not known. “We know how many things there are on the list, but we don’t know what they are exactly. But we have heard that Ozempic is on the list. We can’t get enough Ozempic for people with diabetes now to guarantee supply and [they] want to be giving people 60 days worth at a time? It’s just not thought through at all.
“The problem is that there’s been no discussion, no details, no negotiation, and so it completely leaves us blindsided,” she said. “Since we heard the news, we’ve been calling our Labor MPs asking for a call back, as is our right as constituents, to discuss the matter. That’s all we want. We want to sit at a table to work through all the rules, work through the specifics, figure out a solution that works for everyone. We really believe that can be done, but we’re not getting anything back, getting no response. And it’s insulting, frankly”
Ms Bird urged her customers to contact their local MPs, federal health minister Mark Butler and prime minister Anthony Albanese. “I’d be so grateful if you could send them a message asking them to talk to the Pharmacy Guild before implementing these changes.”
“All we want the chance to do is to sit down with the Government and sort through these issues before it’s implemented, so that our PBS that has served Australia so well for 75 years isn’t decimated overnight by this stupid decision. So please, I would love your help in sharing this message.”