Breaking point


Following backlash from the GP community, Sonic Healthcare and its subsidiary SmartHealth have withdrawn from Sigma’s in-pharmacy screening program 

Sonic says that while the program was developed in line with the Health Department’s initiative to promote in-pharmacy health screening services, “many GPs expressed concerns about the initiative, and we have decided to withdraw from the program”.

“Sonic Healthcare wishes to reinforce its decades-long support of general practitioners, and we look forward to continuing our collaborative relationship with GP colleagues in the best interests of excellent patient care,” it says.

As a result of the decision by Sonic, Sigma Healthcare will be investigating alternative providers for the pathology services to support the continuation of the program.

“Whilst we understand the commercial pressures applied to Sonic and respect their decision, the suspension is disappointing particularly given how hard both parties worked on this Sonic collaboration,” says a spokesperson for Sigma.

“This pathology program is about empowering and motivating patients to manage their own health, including better engagement with their GP.

“Accessing these pathology testing services through a trained healthcare professional provides patients with a face to face contact able to help them understand their results – something that is not available through similar online services.

“Sigma and Amcal are committed to providing patient centric services and will continue to develop and roll out programs that empower patients and help them to navigate the healthcare system.”

The screening program announced in June received a huge amount of backlash from doctors’ groups including the AMA and the RACGP.

Speaking on behalf of the RACGP, acting president Dr Edwin Kruys said that “While we welcome and encourage other healthcare providers to contribute to patient care, your GP clinic is the most appropriate place to order a pathology test, not a pharmacy.

“Pharmacists do not have the diagnostic skills required to provide this kind of care safely,” he argued.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon referred to pharmacy-based pathology tests as “second rate, wasteful non-care”.

The medical organisation slammed the initiative as “opportunistic, wasteful and bordering on irresponsible”.

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