The blame game: Part 2

hourglass and coins - MA expresses PBS cuts concerns

“As an employer I am embarrassed at the low wages I have to pay my pharmacists,” owner tells King Review panel

Over the past few months, AJP has covered in detail the dissatisfaction that employee pharmacists are expressing regarding their wage rates (see here and here).

While many of our readers responded by placing the blame squarely in the hands of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and its owner members, we decided to hear owners’ side of the story: why do they think remuneration for employee pharmacists is so low? And what can be done to solve the pharmacy wage crisis?

Many owners told us that price disclosure is pushing down remuneration, consequently limiting their ability to pay staff a decent wage, and this message has been echoed in several submissions by pharmacy owners to the King Review.

“As owners we want to pay pharmacists more,” owner Mario Barone told AJP. “At the end of the day we’re all pharmacists. But the government keeps pushing down our remuneration through price disclosure, and that gets passed on to the pharmacists and other staff.”

Jacquie Tsimbinos, pharmacist and owner of Terry White City East in South Australia, agrees with Barone.

“Pharmacy owners cannot accommodate paying more to pharmacists because they are already struggling to make ends meet each month,” she wrote in her submission to the review panel.

“The government needs to step up and take responsibility for pharmacist wages. More and more young pharmacists are leaving the profession because they feel they have no future which is very sad.”

Mark Browne from Amcal Max in Gympie in Queensland says the financial model in pharmacy is flawed.

“The current financial remuneration is pathetic. While the governments make short-sighted gestures to penny pinch, it is the innovation and the patients who miss out, for political gain. Retail pharmacy is hurting with 1000 pharmacies not earning wages.

“As an employer I am embarrassed at the low wages I have to pay my pharmacists as health professionals. However, when shop assistants earn almost as much as pharmacists there is seriously something wrong,” says Browne.

Victorian rural pharmacy owner Paresh Kerai explains that his business is reliant on the government for a steady income stream.

“The dispensing income is currently what keeps my pharmacy viable. If this is lowered and not supplemented by other means then the viability of my pharmacy is at serious risk.

He says increased and aggressive price disclosure and reductions have brought down PBS expenditure significantly.

“My concerns are not just about protecting my personal bottom line but more so to make sure my pharmacy continues to operate for years to come… Unfortunately running a pharmacy has costs and if I am just breaking even, then how [am I] to continue living?”

Some employers have even had to reduce staff numbers to keep going.

“With PBS reform and price disclosure, this has negatively impacted on pharmacy,” says Raquel Tassone, owner for Mt Claremont Pharmacy in Western Australia.

“Prescription numbers have fallen and turnover has dropped significantly to the point that staff reductions have had to be made,” says Tassone, who calls on the government to fund additional services that are provided by pharmacies like hers.

“Moving forward to the 7CPA, more needs to be done on ensuring the livelihood of pharmacy for the future so that all Australians are able to continue to access pharmacies,” she says.

Pharmacy owner Craig Clark has the same concerns.

“We have three pharmacists on all week. The sudden decrease in income has made us look at all aspects of the business including many of the free services, the seven days a week opening, the staffing levels, and rent,” he says.

“We all understand the pharmacists wage is low compared to other professions. If you keep cutting pharmacy remuneration there is no way we can increase our pharmacists wages that work in our stores.”

See The Blame Game: Part 1

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