Leading the way

Helen O’Byrne, president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Tas) talks about her plans for pharmacists to play a greater role in vaccinations and other new areas of practice       

Since taking over as Tasmanian state branch president of the Guild in January, Helen O’Byrne has had a busy few months – meetings of the new Guild national council, a state election and the ongoing COVID situation. 

Ms O’Byrne talks about the Guild’s relationship with the reelected Liberal Party government, and discusses her objectives for the state’s pharmacists:

  • Giving  the state’s pharmacists access to the National Immunisation Program
  • Looking into research to expand the scope of practice for pharmacists in the state 
  • Replacating the Queensland UTI trial in Tasmania. 

Ms O’Byrne says the Guild has a “great relationship with the state government. We have a new Health Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, who the Guild has previously dealt with when he held the mental health portfolio. We’ve got a good relationship with him”.

“I’d also love to see us vaccinating and contributing to reducing hospital presentations…. Empowering pharmacies to vaccinate is an important thing in such a decentralised population,” she said.

“We’re really well trained for a lot of things, but we’re not allowed to do them. There are red lights in each state which really put a stop on what we can do. There are quirks in legislations that it’s up to each of the state president’s to seek out and advocate to have changed. 

“For instance in Tasmania, when we give emergency supply, we’re only allowed to give three day’s supply, whereas in some other state’s, you’re allowed to give the full pack. That’s going to effect continued dispensing for us outside the pandemic.

“It’s just the way it’s always been done. We’ve evolved past that, but the legislation hasn’t,” she said.

Ongoing delays to the initiation of pharmacist involvement in COVID vaccinations has caused confusion for pharmacies, she says, referring to her own pharmacy (in Launceston), which was “all geared up and ready to start in May.”.  

“We know that we’re ready, that we can do it and that we’re the most accessible place to get a vaccination.”

Ms O’Byrne also talks about the impact of changes to funding for rural and remote pharmacies and her interest and passion to move women into pharmacy leadership  

“I’m really passionate about moving more women into ownership. It’s something that has to happen. The numbers just don’t add up,” she said.

“We’ve got 32% ownership and membership of the Pharmacy Guild who are women, but 63% of the profession are women. 

It means there is room in our ownership structures to have better businesses because we know women in businesses make them more profitable and better at delivering community care.” 


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