Behind the scenes

The Health Minister has signalled there may be potential for some amendments on price disclosure, says community pharmacist insider

Community pharmacist and owner of an independent pharmacy in Rozelle, NSW, Adele Tahan recently met with Health Minister Greg Hunt to discuss the industry.

She points out that community pharmacy is an area of small business that comes with its own range of challenges and issues.

“As a long standing community pharmacist at the coalface dealing with community healthcare challenges, I took the opportunity to bring some of these grassroots issues to Minister Hunt,” says Ms Tahan.

“It needs support from the government to continue employing staff and provide adequate services to its immediate communities.”

Ms Tahan is a Pharmacy Guild branch committee member, however she points out that she met with Minister Hunt representing herself and small business as a community pharmacist and owner, and not on behalf of the Guild.

She tells AJP the community is being led towards a model of “cheap offers” and disproportionate marketing by the big chains, not realising they are being short-changed in the healthcare advice and often chronic disease or mental health management that pharmacists have been offering for decades.

“If we do not take charge of these trends, we can see pharmacy going on the Amazon model, whereby drugs and prescriptions will be delivered by the postman after the click of a button. We have to stop this and bring the care back in health.

“I also discussed workforce with him saying quality pharmacists are leaving the profession due to the pay, however we can’t pay much due to price disclosure.”

Considering the impacts of the program, she said they discussed what can be changed under the price disclosure program.

“As it has been legislated, not much can be done with its frequency however there might be potential for a longer notification period,” says Ms Tahan.

Minister Hunt and the health department are also reportedly working on making direct exclusive distribution “more feasible” to provide better access for all stakeholders involved.

Minister Greg Hunt and pharmacy owner Adele Tahan.
Minister Greg Hunt and pharmacy owner Adele Tahan.

In July 2017, the minister announced a $16 million package to create a national real time prescription monitoring.

However not all states have come on board with the system, with the Guild repeatedly calling on the NSW government to implement real time monitoring in the state.

“It is both infuriating and depressing that NSW must wait on a Commonwealth real time monitoring solution rather than take initiative in the way Victoria has done,” said NSW Guild president David Heffernan last month.

Ms Tahan asked that Minister Hunt’s department promote this initiative in NSW, being the most populous state.

He was also very positive about vaccination and expanding the scope of pharmacists vaccination, commenting that the 2018 flu season has been very mild comparing to 2017, she says.

“I was very impressed by the minister and his detailed knowledge on all aspect of the matters discussed,” says Ms Tahan.

“He again confirmed his commitment to the ownership model of community pharmacy.

“Overall I felt that Minister Hunt and his department were very positive about community pharmacy.”

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