A seat at the table

Guild’s push to scrap $1 co-pay discount led Health Minister to a unilateral call for the PSA’s place at the agreement table, says George Tambassis, as he also talks up pharmacist prescribing

The surprise announcement last month by Health Minister Greg Hunt that the PSA would be included in 7CPA negotiations was not previously discussed with cabinet colleagues and may require legislative amendments, says Guild national president George Tambassis.

Speaking to AJP during the recent APP2019 conference on the Gold Coast, Mr Tambassis says neither the Prime Minister, nor other ministers the Guild spoke to were aware of the decision prior to the Minister’s announcement.

“We were surprised, and so was the Government,” Mr Tambassis said. “We went to the Prime Minister, who referred us back to the health Minister. We got an email response from one of his advisers. Other cabinet ministers didn’t know about, and certainly the Opposition didn’t.”

“We believe it [the announcement] was a knee-jerk reaction from the Minister. We had been in Parliament House just that week advocating hard about abolishing the $1 PBS co-pay discount. We irritated them.”

While the Guild is “more than happy to work with the PSA”, Mr Tambassis says there has yet to be an official decision on the move, and he believes the existing legislative arrangements may preclude the PSA actually being a 7CPA signatory.

“If the government of the day decides they want to admit anyone else as a signatory, they have to refer to the National Health Act [the agreement is part of subsection 98BAA(1) of the National Health Act 1953]. At the moment it clearly says the Guild is the organisation that represents the bricks and mortar. But we’ll deal with that at the appropriate time.”

He said it has not been confirmed to him in any official capacity, and is currently “a statement he [Minister Hunt] made at a PSA function.”

Meanwhile, Mr Tambassis also flagged that the 7CPA could look at changes to the consultation fee structure “to reflect changes in the community pharmacy network” and as a way of helping struggling pharmacies.

He also called for pharmacist prescribing in areas such as treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) that can be handled via a Q&A protocol and don’t require pathology tests.

“We could easily follow the protocol just as well as a doctor, you could do the consultation in a pharmacy and the patient will get a proper therapeutic outcome straight away.” 



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  1. Apotheke

    So the Pharmacy Guild representing some 5,000 bricks and mortar Pharmacies and their owners, who number 2,000-3,000 if that, wish to remain the sole negotiating body for the 7thCPA. An agreement that impacts the livelihoods of some 17,000-18,000 employee Pharmacists. PSA represents the interests of both owners and employee Pharmacists. I believe that both PSA and Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) the union are bodies that are far more representative of the Pharmacy profession than the owners Guild. Time to move over fellas and realise that you are just one small part of the healthcare system and other people have a legitimate right to have a say in how pharmacy and pharmacist services are delivered to the community. It is NOT all about preserving your bricks and mortar monopoly.

    • pana79

      And these 17000-18000 Pharmacists are employed by who – yes us greedy owners a lot of which have put everything on the line for their Pharmacy. What financial stake does the PPA or the PSA have in this? Are you dispensing out of your garage and you think you have a right to have a say in the 7th agreement?

  2. Michael Post

    Antibiotic resistance is a major issue and UTIs are overdiagnosed with very few cases leading to pyelonephritis and/or sepsis.

    Antibiotic therapy is not an appropriate treatment pathway for pharmacy .

    Let’s leave this one alone for community benefit.

  3. Michael Ortiz

    We are having the wrong debate!!!

    It shouldn’t be about the $1.00 copayment discount. It should be about the affordability of the patient Copayment – it is far too high.

    5 general scripts a month cost more than $200 and the SafetyNet system discriminates against singles

    The copayment system is broken and needs to be fixed. We need a proportional copayment with real price signals to patients and we need an individual safetyNet as well as a family unit SafetyNet (2 times the single).

    The Government spent $150 million less on the PBS last year than in 2017

    I would expect the reduction in PBS spend to continue unless they approve a raft of new drugs to the PBS.

    Forget the politics and think about the patients.

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