Peter Feros asks if you can imagine your professional future looking so bleak that driving for Uber was a more viable option than practising as a pharmacist?

That’s exactly what one young NSW pharmacist has been forced to do according to one of Australia’s leading pharmacy academics who told me this sad story following my ‘The Vanishing Pharmacist’ AJP article.

Apparently the Uber option offered this young married pharmacist higher income, less responsibility and stress, and greater work flexibility.

The article, which pointed to a looming workforce crisis due to low rates of pay, clearly hit a chord and I’d like to thank those who commented on it. There have been many so I’ll try to address them together instead of addressing each comment.

My interest in the issue was prompted by anecdotal evidence from a range of sources. Following a talk I gave at a Mike Lazarow small group conference last year, four pharmacy owners reported a shortage of pharmacists in rural areas.

I have since regularly questioned others about the issue and received the same response. This includes a partner of mine in a pharmacy on Sydney’s northern beaches – perhaps one of the most desirable places to live in Australia – who is currently finding it difficult to fill a position.

Another person I spoke with was recent graduate Ben Galluzzo who asked 10 friends from Uni that he maintains contact with about their views. Five of the 10 have either left the profession already or attempting to leave.

Around the same time an AJP survey found that a majority of pharmacists wanted to leave the profession. Around 1300 pharmacists voted, with a total of 82% considering leaving the profession.

Sue Muller runs pharmacy recruitment service LocumCo, clearly a useful barometer of pharmacist employment supply and demand. She confirmed to me that it was because of the many pharmacists who had left community pharmacy that there was now a shortage of pharmacist supply.

So pharmacist supply is very low and demand very high in historical terms. While pay rates fell from 2011 to 2015, these rates are now increasing.

While I believe the picture is already very clear, I will continue to gather evidence about the profession’s poorly paid pharmacists and their plans to leave community pharmacy for another sector of the economy. I also look forward to sharing it with you and the politicians that have the power to turn this travesty around.

In the meantime, I urge all pharmacists to make representations with their own stories to tell their local MPs and the new federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. You can contact Minister Hunt by: going to his website and emailing your message where indicated; calling his ministerial office (02-6277 7220); or faxing (02-62734146).

Peter Feros B.Pharm, FACP, MPS is a pharmacy owner