Budget to defund not-for-profit pharmacy


Ruth Cerone interviewed regarding pharmacy defunding

The government’s decision to defund the country’s only integrated, not-for-profit pharmacy will see low income communities in Melbourne’s inner north the biggest losers out of the recent Budget, says the service.

The pharmacy is part of a not-for-profit community health centre in Collingwood.

Lyn Morgain, CEO of cohealth, which provides the service, said Australia’s only community-funded pharmacy has been saving the Federal Government money while servicing Melbourne’s poorest communities, but will be axed by the 2015 Budget.

“It was unbelievable and unfair that cohealth’s integrated patient care model, which delivers prescriptions at 30% less cost than the national average, is to be cut,” she says.

“It seems extraordinary to withdraw funding from a service that is delivering on the government’s policy objectives,” Morgain says.

“Given government investigations into runaway spending on pharmaceuticals and the recent Mental Health Review recommendation that pharmacists be better be linked with GPs, this decision flies in the face of efforts to streamline healthcare costs.

“According to the government’s own performance indicators, our integrated GP/pharmacy model has demonstrated annual savings of over $346,000 to the health budget.”

Having GPs and pharmacists under the one roof has also delivered prescriptions at 30% less cost than the national average, she told the AJP.

“So the big question is: as it announces a review, how come $19 billion in public funds goes to private pharmacy owners, while Australia’s only integrated and cost effective GP/pharmacy model servicing communities that are doing it tough will be closed?”

Morgain said there’s no question that cohealth is delivering a cheaper version of healthcare for the government to some of the sickest people in the community, and its GPs say the overall quality of care is better for their patients.

“We are operating a streamlined, one-stop, integrated doctor/pharmacy service in the one building—it ticks the box for efficient service delivery, good medication management, and leads to better health outcomes and cheaper healthcare.

“For example, cohealth GPs see many people speaking languages other than English. With the pharmacy onsite, interpreters assisting the patient with their medical appointment can also ensure people understand and comply with their medications.

“We’re astonished that we’ve had no consultation with the government on this policy decision,” says Morgain.

Buried in the Budget is a statement that confirms the defunding of this not-for-profit pharmacy and GP services: Ceasing the Alternative Arrangement Transfer to Pharmaceutical Benefits Programme: The Government will cease the Alternative Arrangement Transfer to Pharmaceutical Benefits Programme which funds Cohealth Ltd (Cohealth) to provide Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines and pharmacy services to their clients in inner Melbourne.

Both the Pharmacy Guild and the PSA admitted they are not aware that such a pharmacy even existed.

by Jayamala Gupte

Image courtesy cohealth: the pharmacy’s Ruth Cerone

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