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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