Minimum work hours for pharmacy owners?

Most AJP readers think there should be mandatory work requirements for owners, with over a third calling for them to work >350 hours per year in each of their pharmacies

Over the past few weeks, AJP asked readers to let us know if they thought owners should be required to work a minimum number of hours in each of their pharmacies per year.

The poll received a total of 691 individual votes, and readers could choose only one poll option.

Here are the results (from highest to lowest number of votes):

  • Owners should be required to work in each of their pharmacies >350 hours per year – 36% (249 votes)
  • Owners should be required to work in each of their pharmacies 250 hours per year – 20% (138 votes)
  • There should be no mandatory work requirements for owners – 18% (125 votes)
  • Owners should be required to work in each of their pharmacies <150 hours per year – 15% (102 votes)
  • Owners should be required to work in each of their pharmacies 350 hours per year – 11% (77 votes)

Based on the results, most AJP readers think there should be a significant number of compulsory minimum onsite work hours for pharmacy owners in Australia.

However about a fifth believe there should be no mandatory work requirements for owners.

During the recent inquiry into the establishment of a pharmacy council and pharmacy ownership in Queensland, the topic of “absentee landlord” owners – especially of multiple pharmacies – was brought up during public hearings.

Professor Stephen King, who is a commissioner with the Productivity Commission and chaired the recent Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation, broached the topic at a public hearing for the Queensland inquiry into the establishment of a pharmacy council, held in August this year.

Professor King said in his personal opinion – based upon visits to a number of pharmacies around the country and hearings during the review – the ownership rules were “good in theory” but “not working in practice”.

“In theory, it is a good thing to have a health care practitioner directly responsible for the outcome of their patients – whether a GP, whether a specialist, whether a pharmacist,” he told the hearing.

“You want the individual who’s providing the medical service to have… skin in the game as far as the patient’s welfare and the patient’s outcome is concerned.”

But this theory was tested, in his observation, during King Review research into the sector.

“There are a large number of pharmacy owners who may best be categorised as absentee landlords,” he said.

The prevalence of aggregated and absentee ownership was also raised as a concern by the Small Pharmacies Group (SPG).

“If the purpose of pharmacist ownership is to ensure better health outcomes for patients, measures need to be taken to discourage this model,” said SPG spokesperson Katie Stott.

“Professor Stephen King has that ownership might as well be deregulated because of the number of absentee owners. A simpler solution could be to introduce a compulsory minimum number of hours that owners are required to work in each of their pharmacies.”

However some AJP readers were vexed by the perception that they did not work in their pharmacies.

“I’ve worked in my pharmacy every day for the last 7 days, with 5 more until my next day off, and I’ve had 5 days off in the last 4 weeks. I have worked an average of 60 hours a week this month, with one week pushing close to 100, all while also attending to the various Boards that I work with,” said Victorian pharmacy owner Jarrod McMaugh.

“I think people need to get a grip of themselves if they think that the ‘average’ owner is one who owns multiple pharmacies and never spends time in them. At best this perception is delusional, and it is deeply offensive to pharmacists like myself who invest their time and money and future in their pharmacy only to be categorised as lazy & unethical & absent,” he said.

Others pointed out that the poll was aimed at absentee owners and those with multiple pharmacies.

“Jarrod, you are the antithesis of an absentee owner…,” said Anne Todd. “The poll heading should reflect it is aimed at multiple pharmacy/absentee owners, which is how I responded to it based on the article. Having locumed in those vs engaged and present owner pharmacies there is a distinct difference in the tone/vibe, be it ordering responsiveness to the cleanliness of the toilets!”

Gavin Mingay responded: “Jarrod, you are like the traditional pharmacy owner, and sadly the profession is moving away from that style of ownership. We need to stop the big corporations from having pseudo-owners and finding ways around the ownership rules. Unfortunately, it is probably too late to be able to reverse the errors of our ways…”

Meanwhile we also ran a poll a few months ago asking readers how many pharmacies a pharmacist should be allowed to own.

The majority (30% – 226 votes) said pharmacists should be allowed to have an interest in the equivalent of two or three pharmacies.

Next highest in responses was ‘one pharmacy, one (pharmacist) owner’ (20% – 152 votes).

Third, 14% (102 votes) said the rules would be ideal the way they are if certain loopholes were closed.

Eleven percent (85 votes) of respondents said ownership rules should be deregulated entirely.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia did not wish to provide a statement on the poll topic of mandatory work requirements for owners.

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