More pharmacy funding is wrong priority: AMA president

PBS cuts: scissors snipping $20 note

AMA president Associate Professor Brian Owler has criticised an increase in funding and a greater pharmacist role which are set to be part of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement.

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, A/Prof Owler examined various aspects of the health announcements in the 2015 federal Budget, in a piece titled Budget of Discontent.

This included criticism of the $20 million to fund the new medical school in Western Australia, which he says is ‘bad policy’.

“To further add to the disquiet, the government then announced increased funding in the new community pharmacy agreement,” A/Prof Owler wrote.

“This announcement came with plans to extend the primary care role of pharmacists, raising the question of whether they will have access to Medicare rebates.

“We think the government has its priorities wrong — more funding for pharmacy over five years, and a rebate freeze for doctors and patients for the next three years.

“This does not make sense when quality primary care provided by GPs is the most cost-effective part of the health system.

“It looks like a long winter ahead indeed — a winter of discontent.”

A/Prof Owler also criticised cuts of nearly $150 million to GPs from changes to the child health checks.

He said the e-health changes, the national mental health plan process, support for the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, organ donation programs and the ice strategy were all small, welcome gains.

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