Community pharmacy suffering as pharmacists leave


Salaries are starting to rise, as many pharmacists leave the profession, dissatisfied with pay and conditions, says one stakeholder

Raven’s Recruitment has released its 2019 Pharmacy Market Report, in which general manager Heidi Dariz highlights a critical shortage of pharmacists, particularly in the community pharmacy sector.

The report highlights salary information gathered by the company, differentiating between metropolitan areas and regional and rural areas, where the shortage is most severe – though Ms Dariz told the AJP that pharmacist interest in jobs in the community sector even in major cities has been dropping.

For example a pharmacist in Sydney can expect to make between $68,000 and $84,000 a year (and a pharmacist manager $95,000 to $108,000) while in the Australian Capital Territory, the figures are $74,000 to $82,000 for a pharmacist, and $98,000 to $110,000 for a pharmacist manager.

This increases to $85,000 to $98,000 for a pharmacist in a regional and rural area, and to $120,000 to $135,000 for a pharmacist manager.

A pharmacist manager in the Northern Territory can earn up to $152,000, or up to $140,000 in regional and rural West or South Australia.

“The main thing we’re finding, especially in community pharmacy, is that a lot of people have been leaving just due to pay and conditions,” Ms Dariz told the AJP.

“Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen salaries increase quite substantially, especially for rural – but also in cities. They’ve had to bump them up because they’re just not getting the candidates through.

“In Hobart, Canberra, even places like Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, 12 months ago we’d have 10 or 15 applications a day for jobs, and now we’re lucky to get three or four.

“It’s definitely turned around from five years ago when everyone was talking about the oversupply. It’s completely changed.”

She highlights the issue of pay in the introduction to the report, saying that the recent decision by the Fair Work Commission to provide a 5% increase in pharmacists pay, in two increments (the last of which came into effect on 1 October 2019) was welcome.

However, “many in the industry share the opinion that the Community Pharmacy Award is still irrelevant to the cost of recruiting and retaining quality staff,” she wrote.

Many employees still feel pay is too low for the responsibilities and workload of a community pharmacist.

Ms Dariz told the AJP that consequently, many employers are “thinking outside the box” when it comes to attracting pharmacists, “especially for rural relocation expenses – even accommodation.

“We’re finding that more than half of our rural employers, about 70% are offering paid accommodation. That’s long-term.

“And the 30% that aren’t offering ongoing accommodation are at least looking at say, the first two months, and paying for people to relocate.

“There have been others where accommodation hasn’t been available but they’ll cover flights home, up to four flights to see family every year, or registration to events like APP, where they’ll cover travel expenses and accommodation for that once a year.”

While community pharmacy may have lost its allure for many, other pharmacists are interested in different career paths, such as working in the pharmaceutical industry, in aged care and as pharmacists in GP clinics, the report states – and this trend is expected to continue.

“While some are leaving pharmacy altogether, others are moving to other areas,” Ms Dariz says.

“We recruit for hospital and industry as well, and I would have 10 to 15 calls a day asking, ‘what have you got in hospital and industry?’

“We don’t get a lot of industry positions, but when I did list one around two months ago, we had 50 or 60 candidates. That was Melbourne, but I haven’t seen numbers like that before, ever.”

She said employers need to think about the conditions their pharmacists are working under as well.

“People don’t want to work 80-hour weeks any more, they want work-life balance,” she said.

“I know it’s difficult, especially in rural areas, where there’s not a lot of choice – but you can always get a locum, and not have that one person dispensing so many scripts under so much pressure on their own, as they’ll burn out.”

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9 Comments

  1. Paul Sapardanis
    07/11/2019

    Why does anyone buy a pharmacy and not consider who the pharmacist(s) are going to be or how they are to get them. For the 20+ years I have been a pharmacist there has always been a rural/regional shortage. Buy it and work it yourself or let someone else, you decide.

  2. Tamer Ahmed
    07/11/2019

    To be honest I am really pleased that finally owners greedy decisions has caught up to them.I rememeber 5 years ago one of these corporate area managers telling me when I was explaining that the conditions are bad that she could run the pharmacy indefinetly on locums.Guess what she got fired because she can’t find these locums any more or afford them and the pharmacy had to be sold.This is poetic justice served

  3. Philip Smith
    08/11/2019

    Lets be honest, if community pharmacy was/could pay $60-$80 an hour their wouldn’t be a shortage.

    • Paul Sapardanis
      09/11/2019

      They probably could if there was no discounting. Although did discounting begin due to low wages? Chicken or egg?

  4. Red Pill
    08/11/2019

    With paediatric vaccination now added to the expanded role of a community pharmacist, you have to be insane to work for a measly $32/h on offer.

    Expect the exodus to continue as more and more responsibilities are piled on the back of the poor pharmacists manning these dispensaries.

    • Paul Sapardanis
      08/11/2019

      True low wages are now only part of the problem with workloads being the other part. The increase in below cost services ( vaccinations NDSS BP monitoring etc ) are adding to this. The workload guidelines need to reflect this change in practice.

    • TALL POPPY
      09/11/2019

      Exactly. Pharmacists should wisen up. Don’t undertake vaccination training unless you are guaranteed a much higher rate! What if I told you that a dispensary tech can get $32/hr+ in a hospital at 19 years of age?
      The more ‘expanded practice’ you take on, the more responsibility you have, the more stress and are you actually being paid more? GP’s can undertake extra training to achieve salaries of $300k per annum. Will a pharmacist employer give you anything more than just recognition (and work you harder)? Guess who is the ultimate winner?

  5. actnowpharmacists
    30/06/2020

    Low wages, Unbelievable work load and stress. Unrealistic expectations from Owners , No job satisfaction, little to no respect from fellow healthcare professionals and the always hanging sword of getting replaced by a newly registered pharmacist willing to work for even less amount of money. Combined them all and you have got a working environment of today’s community pharmacy. Community pharmacists have brought it upon themselves by not having a Union / organisation which can look after their rights. Don’t kid yourselves that PSA and Pharmacy Guild (an owners organisation) are there to work towards the best interests of working pharmacists. Community pharmacies especially the discount pharmacies are becoming toxic environments where you are essentially treated as nothing more than a manual labor expected to do 300+ script, clinical interventions, Medscheck, Vaccinations, Stock filling, counselling and deal with countless distractions in the form of phones, faxes, customers inquiries, account inquiries and what not and still not become the face of the pharmacy. Your registration is always on the line and the moment you try to bring some order into it you risk being replaced by someone who is new into the profession and still naive about how difficult and stressful this job is. Owners work him for two three years until they smarten up or fed up and leave the pharmacy profession and then the cycle goes all over again. I don’t know for sure but the conspiracy theory is that all those new pharmacy schools have been popped up with the help / lobbying of Pharmacy guild so that the industry could be provided with cheap pharmacists. obviously given the amount of responsibility and remuneration, out-flux is more than the influx and hence shortage.

    Owning a pharmacy is like being a member of a millionaires club and you need to be invited into this exclusive circle. This along with the restrictive location rules have thwarted innovations and lessened fair opportunities for the whole generation of non owner pharmacists.

    What Pharmacists need is a collective voice who can bring much needed reforms like Cognitive pharmacist services i.e medscheck, clinical interventions, vaccinations done by employed pharmacists be remunerated directly to that pharmacist or atleast a portion of it. Reforms like limiting the number of scripts / vaccinations / activities that an employed pharmacist can be expected to Safely undertake. At the moment its just like whatever goes.

    • TALL POPPY
      30/06/2020

      The shocking truth behind pharmacy is revealed! Well part of it anyway. Im glad others are beginning to wisen up. You just need to look on Reddit etc. This has been going on for many years – real wages are not increasing in line with inflation at all. And all the time pharmacists are being forced to do more and more. Vaccinations are just one example – now UTI prescribing of all things!

      See my comment below – guess who is the winner?

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