The recently published UTS Barometer 2016 asked pharmacists whether the remuneration system needs to change
An annual UTS and Bankwest-led initiative used to track pharmacy sector confidence, the Barometer asked survey participants were asked to give their opinion on remuneration levels as well as the potential for tiered rates.
The vast majority of pharmacists indicated that no change had occurred in their wages over the past 12 months (68%), although owners/owner managers were more likely to indicate that “yes” remuneration had changed (32%).
“Not a very compelling reason to devote the time and energy to become qualified as a pharmacist,” commented Mario Saia, State Manager NSW/ACT for Bankwest.
“This is also a fundamental driver in the high sales prices for small pharmacies as they are effectively buying themselves a wage.”
Professor Shalom (Charlie) Benrimoj, Head of the UTS Graduate School of Health and a Professor of Pharmacy Practice, said the results are “frightening[ly] low”.
“The way that pharmacists reacted to discounting was to cut wages, the size of the pharmacy and staff instead of looking at where they could compete effectively. That has had a really staggering effect on salaries,” he argued.
“Vast majority of pharmacists have had no wage changes in twelve months. The level of remuneration for your average employee is frightening[ly] low. How are we to attract the best to our profession at this level?”
Approximately three-quarters of pharmacists reportedly earn between $30-$40/hour and one-fifth $40-$50/hour, findings that were consistent across all pharmacy types.
Surprisingly, the survey found independent pharmacies had the highest proportion of pharmacists earning less than $30/hour (8%) when compared with being part of a buying group (0%) or part of a banner group (3%).
The Barometer also assessed levels of participant agreement with changing remuneration from a flat dispensing fee to one of tiered rates.
While no significant differences existed between pharmacist types, pharmacist managers/pharmacists-in-charge and employed pharmacists demonstrated more support towards moving away from a flat rate system compared with owner/owner managers.
Overall participants remained fairly neutral, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the concept of tiered rates.
“[There’s] some warmth towards this idea, particularly from employed pharmacists due to the potential for increased pay,” suggested PSA director Warwick Plunkett.
However Professor Benrimoj was “not surprised” by the result.
“Employee pharmacists in general wish to practice as professionals, not retailers of non-health related goods,” he said.