Patients of the country’s only community-funded pharmacy could pay less for their medicines if the services is defunded, says Health Minister Sussan Ley.
The pharmacy, which is integrated into the cohealth community health centre in Collingwood, inner Melbourne, will have its funding cut under the 2015 Budget.
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt asked the Health Minister whether she would review the decision.
“Melbourne is home to the country’s only not-for-profit community pharmacy, run by the organisation cohealth, where doctors and pharmacists have worked side by side for decades to give better targeted prescriptions and improve the health of public housing residents and pensioners,” Bandt said.
“Your budget increases funding to private pharmacies but, inexplicably, axes cohealth’s pharmacy funding. Why is this budget having a go at some of Melbourne’s poorest?”
But Minister Ley said the Coalition cares very much about affordability of medicines, particularly for those who struggle to pay.
“There are no other pharmacies that operate under this model and, under cohealth, the PBS does not operate but patients pay a subscription depending on their status and whether it is a family or an individual subscription,” she said.
“If you were to transfer the pharmacy to the PBS, some patients would actually pay less.
“So it is not a matter of affordability and in designing the transfer—and I asked my department what the effect would be—there will actually be a cost to the Commonwealth, not a saving.”
The ultimate aim for the Government is to provide affordable medicines in the best possible way, she said.
“As I understand it, we have given cohealth six months notice and an undertaking to work with them to transition themto the PBS under which, as members would know, concessional patients pay $6.10 per script, up to 60 scripts, and then they receive their medicines for free.”
She highlighted the fact that the Collingwood pharmacy is not the only one that does not operate on a private, for-profit principle.
“There are Friendly Society Pharmacies, many in South Australia—that is, the National Pharmacies chain,” she said.
“They have been operating for over 100 years and they reinvest with member benefits.”