Heffernan condemns ‘puerile’ attacks


David Heffernan. Image: Twitter
David Heffernan. Image: Twitter

NSW Guild president David Heffernan has blasted the RACGP for its “extraordinary” attack on community pharmacy this month

RACGP Victoria chair Dr Cameron Loy told Fairfax Media that consumers should avoid in-pharmacy health checks, claiming that “these pharmacies are motivated by money, the opportunity to have more people in the store to buy other things.”

Now, Mr Heffernan has condemned the comments, saying that claiming health checks posed dangers was “an absurd, unfounded and somewhat desperate claim in a week where more transparency in GP remuneration was being called for”.

“The RACGP appear to see advancing their members as attacking other professions,” Mr Heffernan writes in his President’s Desk column in the NSW Guild’s newsletter.

“Representing only a small portion of GPs, the RACGP has become quite an activist organisation over the years and appears more concerned with the works of others than problems within their own profession.”

He says that recent RACGP comments on issues such as asylum seekers, marriage equality and climate change smack more of “virtue signalling” than true social progressiveness.

“In the fields of health, the organisation tends to morally cleanse their conscience by announcing social standings on vitamins, sugar tax and e-cigarettes and use the lazy throwaway lines ‘no evidence’ or ‘evidence based medicine’ to justify their position.

“For example, they claimed ‘no evidence’ for the effectiveness of low-dose codeine despite more than 3 million scripts a year for codeine medications and the death rate of 500 deaths annually for prescription codeine – look at the pharmacists, not us?”

Mr Heffernan accuses the RACGP of being “much quieter” regarding social crises directly within their control, however.

He says the group is “virtually silent” when it comes to endorsing real time monitoring and that without the advocacy of the Guild and other pharmacy groups, Victoria’s ScriptSafe system would not be about to get off the ground.

“Tweets on Twitter reveal senior RACGP identities citing ‘evidence’ that RTPM does not work!

“You would think with prescription deaths soaring past deaths of illicit drugs, an innovative and progressive solution of real-time prescription monitoring would be a top priority. How about putting patients first?”

Mr Heffernan says that there is a “financially beneficial gravitas” for GPs to fill appointments for minor ailments and healthier patients, while marginalising the less fortunate or more time-consuming patients.

“This ‘creaming’ was highlighted in a Fairfax article in the same week as their attack on medical checks in pharmacy and along with the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation for more transparency in GP referrals may be what made the RACGP try on ‘look at them, not us’.”

He asks whether a Medicare rebate facilitates a slowing of such cream-skimming – or whether it would further incentivise it.

“Make no mistake, for the RACGP every blade of turf is sacred.”

Allowing a broader scope of practice for pharmacists would, however, benefit the government and public by easing the burden on hospitals and Medicare, Mr Heffernan writes, as well as helping doctors by further legitimising a Medicare rebate increase.

Mr Heffernan concludes by pointing out that it’s not GPs he’s frustrated with: just the RACGP.

“The RACGP claims unfairly categorise hard working pharmacists and GPs,” he writes.

“In the real world, GPs and pharmacists have a symbiotic working relationship, making the RACGP’s comments ill thought and distracting from the real needs of the public.

“Increased collaboration by the RACGP with not only pharmacists, but other allied health, would be a more pragmatic approach rather than puerile claims on pharmacy medical checks.

“Let’s not look at our navels and put patients first.”

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