‘If they do this, they are the most heartless, gutless people’

The Pharmacy Guild’s Kos Sclavos has condemned the Productivity Commission as “ruthless” and “un-Australian”

Speaking at the Pharmacy Assistant conference on the Gold Coast, the immediate past Guild president warned of the devastating impact the Commission’s recommendations on pharmacy would have on Australians, their heath and the pharmacy sector.

This week’s report by the Commission included a recommendation that Australia “embrace technology to change the pharmacy model”. This would include automating dispensing, which would be overseen by people with “substantially less” training than that currently undertaken by pharmacists.

If implemented, the health sector would also “identify where it is cost effective to use pharmacists in primary health, taking into account the capabilities of lower-cost health professionals, and the increasingly greater capacity for information systems to provide accurate advice about medicines to GPs and other professionals”.

Vending machines could be used to dispense PBS drugs in certain locations, the report suggests.

Mr Sclavos called the report a “bloody shocker” and condemned the Commission as “ruthless” and “basically they’re un-Australian”.

“Either they don’t understand pharmacy and the sector, which is embarrassing because they’re the Productivity Commission, or they don’t care about the patients,” he said.

“There’s 3,000 products that the wholesalers have that are on the PBS, and there’s no vending machine in the world that can hold those 3,000 products.”

This means it would be simply a case of “bad luck” for patients living in one-pharmacy towns, for those with rare conditions, those who need drugs dispensed in liquid form and those with disabilities. After hours services would likely grind to a halt.

The Productivity Commission’s only care is that people are productive, he said.

“When you’ve got vending machines, you can’t have controlled drugs.

“They don’t understand that it’s not just about PBS medicines.”

Minor ailments services and non-PBS items such as S2 and S3 drugs would also not be provided under the “dumbed-down” model suggested, Mr Sclavos told the conference.

“If they do this, they are the most heartless, gutless people”.

Mr Sclavos also used the presentation to take a swing at Professor Stephen King, whose tardy Remuneration and Regulation review began from a position where Prof King “never liked pharmacy from Day One”.

For example, “he doesn’t think pharmacies should be in the CBD” as under the “unviable” dispensing remuneration suggested in the interim report, pharmacies would not be able to afford the overheads associated with operating in a CBD area.

The Guild’s “fundamental issue” is about ensuring patients have the best possible access to medicines, advice and pharmacy services, he says.

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