It’s been a long battle for the Dawesville Chemmart, but more than 18 months after it first opened, the WA pharmacy has finally been granted its PBS approval number.
Health Minister Sussan Ley has intervened to allow the pharmacy to dispense PBS medicines, local Member of Parliament Andrew Hastie told Parliament this week, following a concerted effort by patients.
The pharmacy opened in April 2015 in a small new shopping centre but was not granted the right to dispense, due to an unforeseen quirk of the location rules.
“’Why?’ you may ask,” Mr Hastie said.
“The reason for this is that the pharmacy did not meet the requirements that would allow it to be issued with a PBS approval number.
“These requirements state: ‘At all relevant times there is, within 500 metres, in a straight line from the proposed premises, a supermarket with a gross leasable area of at least 1,000 square metres.’
“The closest supermarket to the pharmacy at the Dawesville Shopping Centre met this requirement, under the definition of ‘gross leasable area’, but fell 25 square metres short under the definition of ‘gross leasable area retail’.
“In other words, the pharmacy could not dispense PBS medication because the nearest shopping centre fell short of the size requirement by 25 square metres. I call this quibbling.”
Pharmacist manager Naomi Brick told the AJP that when she and other employees explained that this was why customers could not fill their scripts at their local pharmacy, they were baffled.
“They were fairly frustrated about it, and a lot wrote to Andrew Hastie, which I think helped us get approval.
“Everybody’s been coming in, month after month, saying, ‘Have you got it yet?’”
Owner Cathy Ries says the approval was an “immense relief” as the business had been badly impacted financially as a result of the approval delay.
“We were looking at the difference between having to shut the pharmacy down and walking away, to now having a very viable pharmacy in a nice little community,” she says.
“The community was desperate for us to get our approval, because they had to travel 14.5km in a round trip to the nearest pharmacy.
“A lot of people don’t think that’s a lot, but for an elderly person that’s a long drive, and it’s also a long trip for those in the community that don’t have their own transport.
“We committed to keeping the pharmacy open until we finally reached no more options, and in that time we got a huge number of signatures on our petition.”
Ries says many customers didn’t need to be asked to sign the petition – they went into the store and asked if there was one they could sign.
“People were coming in their droves. We had huge support,” Ries says. “And Naomi has been a real trouper.
“And when we finally got the Minister’s decision, everybody in the little centre put up balloons and signs – so everybody knew about it and came in to say, ‘You must have your PBS number now!’
“It’s a very positive outcome for a long and arduous journey.”
Hastie told Parliament that the pharmacy’s victory is one over “bad regulation” and which highlights the importance of community engagement.
“I want to congratulate the local community for their leadership in fighting this regulation,” he said.
“It shows they have strong, grassroots local leadership. But more importantly, they do not wait for government to fix things, nor do they tolerate bad regulation.
“To me and to the many people affected by this decision, this was an example of red tape getting the way of common sense. The coalition’s priority is to encourage job growth; to encourage small business and to protect Australians from senseless regulation that negatively impacts their lives.
“Common sense has prevailed.”