This week’s release of the King Review’s discussion paper got a lot of attention – as did Guild president George Tambassis’ response to it.
The Review took the form of a discussion of various aspects of community (and hospital) pharmacy, and instead of making recommendations, posed 140 questions, bringing in everything from location rules and ownership to querying whether pharmacies should have their PBS funding cut if they go over a certain amount of retailing space.
George Tambassis posed a “Question 141” – “Should we take a system that is working well for consumers and taxpayers and dismantle it for the sake of an economic theory?”
The Guild’s answer, of course, was “no”.
“While we oppose untested, ideologically-driven deregulation which will only put a tried and tested system at risk, we do not oppose reform,” he wrote.
A number of AJP readers agreed that the existing system works well, but others declared that the system as it stands is “broken”. Here’s what you said.
“Widespread mistreatment of staff… The system definitely is broken,” wrote reader Paige.
“Deregulation needs to happen ASAP to improve working conditions of employee pharmacists and assistants.”
“Forgive me if I have misinterpreted Mr Tambasis, but from a corporate governance and management perspective (for my sins I teach this stuff) it would seem a poor risk management choice to suggest that any system would not benefit from re-evaluation and change management,” wrote Kevin Hayward.
“In the industrial revolution the Luddite movement bears testimony to a failure to adapt and survive.”
“If it ain’t broken…” isn’t an argument in this case,” wrote Pagophilus.
“The system IS broken. It’s hanging together, but it is broken. It needs fixing, and people without vested interests need to be involved in finding solutions.”
And regarding the location rules, reader Tony Lee wrote that, “Having retired from retail pharmacy, & owned pharmacies before and after 1991, I have always believed the profession should not be regulated by location.
“Young pharmacists should be able to freely compete anywhere if they believe they have the professional ability + the financial skills to succeed… I am aware of the many arguments to retain location rules and the benefits, but overall believe them protectionist and undemocratic.”
The status quo had its proponents, too.
“The current rules would appear to work well for most stakeholders,” wrote Michael Downing.
“Indeed for rural areas it would be desirable to extend the concept to provider Numbers for GPs.”
Russell Smith wrote, “The rational supply of medication to the majority of the populace at a reasonable price with reasonable promptness – and with professional care, is NOT broken.”
And Harriet Wright wrote, “I think that although you may see lots of keen young owners in the city, it is the needs of the rural population that are met by the location rules.
“We have seen this play out in the de-regulation of GP practice. Let’s not repeat the experiment in pharmacy, which works well as it stands.”
A couple of readers pointed out that as it stands, some of the rules are already not being adhered to.
“There are no restrictions on access to S2 medicines,” wrote Pagophilus, in relation to the question raised in the report of whether S2 and S3 schedules unnecessarily restricted medicines access.
“They are being sold on eBay (by pharmacies). How’s that? There are some pharmacists who will flout multiple laws to get ahead in business.
“Before changing the laws, how about enforcing the current ones first, so you can see whether the change will achieve anything positive.”
Worked and Retired in NSW agreed. “The only pharmacists that adhere to the rules are the professionals,” they wrote.
“The ‘entrepeneurs’ seem to do whatever they please to maximize the dollar.
“If you can’t enforce the current regulations and guidelines change them and enforce them otherwise the public benefit of s2 and s3 will be lost and so will the sales restrictions that have served both the public and profession well up until now.”