Debate highlights workload problem: PPA


A lively debate between the PSA and SHPA earlier this week is a good reminder that pharmacy working conditions matter to patient care whatever the setting, says union spokesperson

PPA’s Matt Harris told the AJP that whether they are working in a community or hospital pharmacy, employee pharmacists will work to uphold their code of ethics, and their working environments need to support them to provide the level of care required for every patient interaction.

SHPA’s Professor Michael Dooley had said that constraints in existing funding models and the commercial priorities of some are factors that must be acknowledged as barriers to the practice of pharmacists and the delivery of care.

PSA’s Joe Demarte responded that Prof Dooley’s comments were “ill-informed and divisive”.

While pointing out that while the union did not wish to take sides between SHPA and PSA, Harris says their debate does highlight the issue of pharmacist working conditions and their balance against profitability.

“Excessive workloads and dangerous conditions impact on the level of care that can be offered to patients,” Harris says.

“Pharmacists need the time and space to be able to care for patient’s needs—they need enough time to properly counsel patients about the safe use of medicines, and provide appropriate levels of advice.

“Employee pharmacists regularly tell PPA that unhealthy working conditions can impact on the level of care that is available to patients.”

He says it’s one reason why the union raised concerns about workloads with the Pharmacy Board of Australia earlier in this year.

“Nurses, teachers and other professionals have enforceable ratios and quotas, why not pharmacists?” he says.

“Allowing a situation where excessive workloads become ‘business as usual’ is not acceptable.”

The union is also pursuing a workloads clause to be included in the Pharmacy Industry Award as part of its case to the Fair Work Commission, to be heard in early 2017.

“We need to create working environments that raise the confidence of pharmacists to discuss the challenge of workloads (and what to do about them) between other employee pharmacists and employers who want to do the right thing,” says Harris.

“Working conditions, regardless of the care setting, need to support a professional workforce and an appropriate level of care, for every patient.”

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