A groundswell of support from locals and politicians has seen a Mundaring pharmacy finally get its PBS approval number

The town of Mundaring is bisected by the Great Eastern Highway, which in the past has proven to be a significant obstacle for senior citizens in the south as they tried to access what was then the only pharmacy in town, in the north.

So when a new medical centre on the south side hung out its shingle in April 2016, Meryl Paterson and Sue Jackson, owners of the Mundaring Amcal Pharmacy, saw an opportunity to help.

“The Great Eastern Highway is the main intercontinental route between Perth and Sydney, so it’s a massive road,” Ms Jackson told the AJP. “Most of the elderly tend to live on the south side of the highway, and it’s worrying seeing them try to cross, even at the traffic lights, with those big B-double trucks thundering on through.

“The doctor’s surgery finally opened up viability for a second pharmacy in Mundaring.”

The catch was that as more pharmacies opened in the area, the new Mundaring Community Pharmacy, in a unit at the medical centre, fell afoul of the location rules. It was opened temporarily as a non-PBS pharmacy.

“Following the approval of a pharmacy in 2016 a mere 135m away from our existing pharmacy it gave us a huge challenge,” Ms Jackson says.

“We lobbied local community groups, residents and pollies and many came to the same conclusion that this really was a great location for the community.”

The owners’ first attempt to gain approval failed, but a second attempt has just been successful, thanks to the intervention of Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“It’s been going on for nearly two years, and so this is a weight lifted off,” Ms Paterson says. “It’s just such a positive thing for us.

“It’s so much easier for the residents south of the highway, and the doctors like the fact that there’s a pharmacy there now.

“We were fortunate in that we’ve got the Amcal pharmacy here, so if people were happy for us to do it, we could bring their scripts across here and deliver the medicines. We’ve tried to keep them as happy as we could without breaking any of the requirements of being a non-PBS pharmacy.”

Residents were clearly happy, as they rallied to support the pharmacists’ bid to have the new pharmacy PBS approved.

“We’ve got a lot of loyal customers who sent their own letters, and we had a lot of help from local Ministers who gave us letters of support, and it was really great how everybody came together to make it work for us,” Ms Paterson says.

Ms Jackson says that with seven pharmacies now within around a 12km radius, plus the PBS reforms and King Review, “it’s been quite a roller coaster ride of emotions”.

“Needless to say we are absolutely thrilled and are looking forward to offering an expert professional service south of the highway.

“Two years ago we were so naïve: we didn’t even know what a Ministerial Determination was. 

“It has been a baptism of fire. The real winners are the local community who now have safer access and more choice.”

She told the AJP that the case shows that the current location rules work, particularly with the safety net of the possibility of a Ministerial Determination to allow a pharmacy to be PBS approved to clear up unintentional casualties of the rules.

“Pharmacy needs to hold onto that,” she says.