Discount pharmacies win in 24-hour pharmacy tender

Pharmacy 4 Less Coburg. Image: Facebook

Discount pharmacies are the big winners in the second round of Supercare Pharmacies… but will too many 24-hour pharmacies dilute the market?

Victoria’s Labor Government has announced that it will open another seven Supercare Pharmacies across the state in June.

The pharmacies will open 24 hours a day, every day, and have a nurse on site from 6pm to 10pm daily.

The next seven Supercare Pharmacies will open at Parkmore Pharmacy 4 Less, Coburg Pharmacy 4 Less, Reservoir Pharmacy 4 Less, Balwyn Day + Night Pharmacy, Curlewis Pharmacy 4 Less, Bendigo UFS Pharmacies and Traralgon Chemist Warehouse.

Victoria’s first five 24-hour Supercare Pharmacies, located in Ascot Vale, Craigieburn, Wantirna South, Yarraville and Ballarat, have helped thousands of people in just nine months, says the Andrews Government.

Feras Karem, managing director and CEO of Pharmacy 4 Less, told the AJP that he thinks the Supercare concept is great, but its proof will be in the volume of customers who take up the ability to access pharmacy in the small hours of the morning.

“We’ve always been about trying to provide our patients with greater access to our pharmacies, and it’s great to see the Victorian Government invest money in this,” he says.

“But though the amount of funds put towards the program are sufficient to make it a viable prospect – they’re putting their hands in their pockets, which is fantastic – the question is: is the market there? Are there people who need the service past midnight? There’s already pharmacies trading up till midnight, does the community need longer hours?

“So we see this as an opportunity to be an early adopter in this space.

“The risk of being an early adopter is you’re ahead of your time if it’s not a viable proposition – but if it does work for you, the rewards are multiplied.”

Mr Karem says that he’s also curious to find out whether more 24-hour pharmacies in Victoria will reduce demand for after-hours services.

“This is the second round, so the question becomes: can you have too many 24-hour pharmacies? Does it take some viability away from the program?

“I think the concept is fantastic in theory, having certain locations offer late night access. But if you put in too many, you dilute the marketplace and it becomes an unviable proposition again.

“I don’t think we’re New York City, open 24/7 and 365 days – there has to be a balance struck.”

Victorian health minister Jill Hennessy said that since the first Supercare pharmacies opened in July 2016, they have seen more than 50,655 visits between 10pm and 7am, with patient numbers growing every month.

There have also been more than 3,260 episodes of care provided by Supercare nursing staff.

“Supercare Pharmacies give families another option and the peace of mind of knowing round-the-clock care is on hand, close to home,” said the Minister.

“There will soon be 12 Supercare Pharmacies in Melbourne and regional Victoria to help even more families and shift-workers get the non-emergency care and urgent medications they need after hours.”

“This gives even more Victorians an alternative to going to a busy emergency department for minor injury or illness.”   

Meanwhile, Feras Karem congratulated the owners of the four successful Pharmacy 4 Less stores.

“The independent owners consider they’re bringing something extra to the community, giving something back in offering that access to late night pharmacy.

“Our brand mantra is more care for less cost, being a discount pharmacy chain, and being open more hours fits right in with our care factor. I don’t see us charging a premium for being open late at night, we’ll run the model the same.”

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