Anarchy in the NT

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The Guild has warned that the Northern Territory is likely to face a “dangerous” pharmacist shortage in the next few years

The decision by Charles Darwin University to cease accepting new enrolments into the Bachelor of Pharmacy Course, and to disband the pharmacy course once the existing cohort have completed their studies, will result in a dangerous skills shortage of pharmacists in the Northern Territory over the next three years, the Guild says.

In August this year, the university confirmed that from 2020, it would not be taking further enrolments into its pharmacy course.

Now, the President of the NT Branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Terry Battalis, said he is calling on the NT Government to work with the Guild to find alternative providers of this important tertiary qualification urgently.

“The pharmacy course at CDU (then Northern Territory University) was established in the early 2000s, initially as a joint venture with James Cook University in Queensland and Curtin University in WA, with the support of the Northern Territory Government to address a significant workforce issue – a critical shortage of pharmacists,” he said.

“Over this period the CDU course has produced a small but steady stream of pharmacy graduates, many of whom have stayed in the Territory to complete their internship and to work as registered pharmacists,” Mr Battalis said.

There are 40 community pharmacies in the NT, which like any other pharmacy in Australia cannot open their doors unless there is a registered pharmacist on site.

“Unfortunately we are again looking down the barrel of another critical shortage of pharmacists,” Mr Battalis said. 

“Community pharmacies employ the majority of pharmacists in the NT. These are the primary healthcare pharmacists who are responsible for providing medicines in a safe and timely manner to those in urban, regional and remote settings.

“These pharmacists are doing their best to provide a first-rate service despite the current economic pressures, and with an already stretched workforce.

“Ideally we would prefer to train and employ local people as pharmacists rather than turning to skilled migration to fill the gap.  A local pharmacy course provides jobs for Territorians,” Mr Battalis said.

The Guild urged the NT Government to examine possible solutions with other providers which might include local campuses of interstate pharmacy schools.

The Guild is not the first stakeholder to express concern about the closure of the course.

In August, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia NT and SA vice president Sam Keitaanpaa told the AJP that the closure was likely to cause problems.

“I acknowledge that they do graduate a small number of students each year – but the problem is that those students tend to make up the majority of our intern placements in the NT, which then feeds into our workforce,” he said at the time.

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