Say that again Minister

Greg Hunt speaks to the media at APP2017

AJP editor Chris Brooker casts a critical eye over the Minister for Health Greg Hunt’s APP2017 speech

It’s fair to say that the public pharmacy debut of relatively new federal health minister Greg Hunt was a roaring success.

Most delegates of APP2017 were immediately upbeat about the Ministers comments, declaring them a fillip to the profession’s sagging levels of optimism.

Whether declaring his support for the sector, for an expanded role for the profession in a more prevention-based health sector, or whether regaling delegates with references to his pharmacist-trained grandmother, Mr Hunt wowed delegates. 

(And he spoke off the cuff, always a way to add to your credentials)

But does his warmly received presentation really deserve this level of admiration?

Well on one level yes, it does. His obvious knowledge of, and regard for, the sector is welcome, and his conciliatory tone defused what could have been a volatile situation. 

Its no secret that relations between the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Mr Hunt’s predecessor Sussan Ley had deteriorated to fairly toxic levels. 

On another level, however, Mr Hunt pulled off the classic politicians sleight of hand of saying all the right things and ticking all the right boxes, without actually saying very much at all. 

He talked about being in detailed negotiations with the Guild on the hot topics of risk sharing and location rule change. Good, and confirmed by Guild President George Tambassis. But there was no time frame given, nor any real process explained. 

He mentioned role and service expansion, without any detail on how or when. 

Obviously Minister Hunt is still new to the portfolio, and I’m sure some of these details are still being hammered out, but I would advise pharmacists to give his speech cautious praise without being too warm and fuzzy. 

Former Guild national president Kos Sclavos was one sceptic saying that in 2015-16, the volume of medicines dispensed was significantly lower than signed 6CPA predictions.

“Volumes have not been expected, that’s part of the risk share and it was so nice to hear the Health Minister this morning to say he’s going to look into the risk share”.

However, Mr Sclavos added that: “It’s one thing to say it and there’s another thing to do it. It’s literally 30 days. We don’t have until May when the budget is announced, in 30 days the expenditure committee will decide whether to give us the money.”

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