It was also ‘perplexed’ about the Health Minister’s decision to announce dual listing of medicines without consultation
There has been a concerning lack of consultation regarding significant decisions that have been made by the Health Minister in recent months, said Guild executive director Pam Price at the PharmaDispatch 2019 conference in Sydney on Monday.
The first of these was when then Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the PSA would be a co-signatory to the upcoming Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA).
“We currently are the signatory to the agreement and that has been working for six agreements so far,” said Ms Price.
“The fact that we weren’t made aware about it before it was made public was a concern. The announcement being made without consultation with us frankly blindsided us.”
PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman confirmed to AJP that Mr Hunt had committed to PSA that they would be a co-signatory to the agreement before the public announcement was made.
He added “it was the Minister’s announcement to make, not ours”.
Health stakeholders are now waiting to see whether Mr Hunt will be re-sworn into the role of Health Minister following the Coalition win over the weekend.
Ms Price said that if the government chooses to make others a signatory to the 7CPA, the Guild will putting forward its views on “whether that’s a worthwhile way of managing the agreement or not”.
However the Guild is reportedly now in conversation with the PSA on how their involvement with the 7CPA will go forward.
“We’re not naïve enough to think you can’t have that breadth of stakeholders there. If we move into the 7CPA with same environment we have now, that’s not going to be good for anyone in the industry,” said Ms Price.
She said there has also been a “sheer lack of consultation” with both the Guild and broader industry on the dual listing announcement that Minister Hunt had made in late March – which he backtracked on days later following a Guild outcry.
“I’ll be very frank, the situation with the Minister that came out of the dual listing didn’t come out of the PBAC [recommendation], but a sheer lack of consultation with how that would impact on the industry,” said Ms Price.
The decision was fundamentally a “savings issue”, she added.
“What the government was thinking about, I’m sure it was being driven purely by the fact that the Budget was coming up and where they were trying to go with regards to their surplus. Why they thought it wouldn’t be of interest to the Guild, I still find that perplexing,” said Ms Price.
“What we would like to see is genuine consultation – not just with the Guild but the breadth of that industry, before the decision is made. With regards to the dual listing, the decision was made and then the Guild was informed about it.
“One of the fundamental things we need to remember is that we’re signed up to an agreement. The 6CPA still has 12 months to run and the Guild needs to be consulted.”
Pharmacy business expert Bruce Annabel told PharmaDispatch delegates that he is concerned about where the Guild currently stands.
“They are incredibly effective. Their members don’t really understand how effective they are and how successful they have been, what they have been able to extract over the years. They have an enormous amount of political capital.”
However Mr Annabel added, “the way the government has been treating the Pharmacy Guild lately, they obviously don’t see the Guild to be in as strong a position as they used to be.
“The dispensing supply decision – the Guild went really hard on it. When you model it, it would take away about a third to up to a half of their bottom line. It’s a massive issue.
“What surprised me was that the Guild went so hard but didn’t try to offset that behind the scenes, which is what they [usually] do. So I’m concerned about where they stand. I think this policy has been placed into the cabinet but will get pulled back out at some stage.”
Mr Annabel said the PSA being involved in the 7CPA “could actually be a good thing”.
“PSA may lead pharmacy in the 7CPA into a blended remuneration model, including more money for professional services,” he said.
“Pharmacists will be forced to implement more services to maintain the bottom line, this will drive change. There needs to be a shift more towards the services side.”