Does running a business undermine pharmacist services?


Ramsay Pharmacy shopfront

The Pharmacy Guild has “waged a campaign” against transfers of pharmacy ownership to the Ramsay group, Ramsay Health claims

In its submission to the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into the pharmacy sector, Ramsay says it does not believe the current ownership rules are necessary to protect consumers and deliver accessible and affordable medicines.

“Indeed, in-house hospital pharmacy dispensaries, which are licenced under section 94 of the NHA, are owned by corporations yet the medications are supplied at a lower cost, under the professional control of a registered pharmacist and provided with the highest level of professional care with rigorous governance and risk management processes in place,” says an introduction signed by Peter Giannopoulos, CEO of Ramsay Pharmacy.

“There is no evidence to suggest that removal of ownership restrictions, whether wholly or partially, would be detrimental to the community at large.

“Indeed, there is no basis on which to differentiate pharmacy from other health services; the ownership of surgical hospitals, medical centres, pathology services and diagnostic imaging services are not confined to doctors and no-one could credibly argue that patient safety and community wellbeing has been compromised as a result.”

Ramsay calls for partial deregulation, allowing any person to own a pharmacy, subject to some exceptions where a conflict of interest was apparent, such as supermarkets, tobacco and alcohol retailers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and prescribers.

“It could be argued that restricting ownership of pharmacies to pharmacists only, whether as individuals or through corporations controlled by pharmacists, potentially poses a risk to consumers,” the submission states.

“The current rules force pharmacist owners to devote significant time and effort towards running a business rather than spending that time focusing on the delivery of pharmacist services to promote quality patient care and public confidence.

“This is the case especially for independent owners. It is no small task for proprietors to have to excel in finance, business management, administration, human resources and marketing as well as their professional obligations as a pharmacist.”

Mr Giannopoulos sets out the nature of its branded pharmacies in the submission, stating that transfers of pharmacy ownership in Queensland over the past two years include pharmacies that were purchased by Ramsay Pharmacy franchisees.

“All these transfers occurred strictly in accordance with the Pharmacy Business Ownership Act 2001 (Qld) and were subject to rigorous assessment by Queensland Health,” the submission says.

“The same processes and approvals have been undertaken in other States (NSW and Victoria).

“Ramsay Pharmacy is aware that the Pharmacy Guild, the lobby group for pharmacy owners, is not supportive of the Ramsay Pharmacy franchise network and have waged a campaign against these transfers.

“However, there are many pharmacy franchise groups in the community pharmacy market, including Chemist Warehouse, Terry White Chemmart, Priceline Pharmacy and Amcal.

“Further, the acquisitions of pharmacies by Ramsay Pharmacy franchisees have all passed the legal requirements in Queensland, NSW and Victoria following rigorous assessment processes.”

Mr Giannopoulos also writes that Ramsay does not believe it is necessary to establish a separate Pharmacy Council in Queensland as “Queensland Health has shown that it has been able to competently and independently carry out its obligations under the Act to ensure quality care for patients and public confidence in the system”.

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