Nine ways to boost rural pharmacy?


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To solve the shortage of pharmacists in rural Victoria, pharmacists must be treated better, says PPA president

Earlier this week, Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Health Mary Wooldridge and Shadow Minister for Country, Health Emma Kealy highlighted the need for a state-wide health workforce strategy.

The Liberal politicians said that staffing shortages in health are “exacerbated by geographic challenges, leaving rural Victorian communities disproportionately exposed”.

AJP spoke to Anthony Tassone, president of the Victorian branch of the Guild, who said such shortages are a significant problem for pharmacy.

“Challenges in recruiting pharmacists is a continual concern raised by pharmacy proprietors, especially in rural areas,” he said.

“The situation is becoming dire across the health sector and it can’t be stressed enough how critically important this is to tackle.”

In response Geoff March, president of the union for employee pharmacists, has told the AJP that “the concern and subsequent shortage of pharmacists begins and ends with far too many owners who continually fail to treat their employee pharmacists as respected healthcare professionals”.

“Until these owners change their attitudes to their employee pharmacists and start to treat them as something other than dispensing robots or retailers, the current problems in pharmacy will continue to escalate,” Dr March said.

“Whilst we welcome a healthcare workforce plan to address the needs of Victoria, this should not be a stop-gap solution to addressing the fundamental problems that hinder community pharmacists from pursuing and/or continuing a career in the field.

“The current system for community pharmacy is broken and until it is fixed, shortages of employee community pharmacists in urban and rural areas of Victoria will continue.”

He outlined a number of incentives and guarantees which he said must be part of any proposed workforce plan, in order to encourage people to enter and remain in the profession.

These included:

  • Better pay that better reflects the years of study and knowledge of community pharmacists;
  • Reasonable workloads;
  • Workload allocations that allows sufficient time to properly undertake patient care services;
  • Greater job satisfaction;
  • Career paths including acknowledgement and recognition for clinical skills and specialists;
  • Safe working environments free from stress and bullying;
  • Upholding pharmacy professional standards by owners and proprietors;
  • Clear career paths and directions for undergraduates; and
  • Career development opportunities for community pharmacists at whatever stage of their career.

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1 Comment

  1. Harriet Wright
    27/09/2018

    Pretty insulting by the president of the union. I am not sure who he is talking about in terms of owners who don’t look after their employees but it is a gross generalisation. The rural owners I talk to (and I am one of them) are usually so excited to get a colleague and a couple of days off here and there that they bend over backwards to keep their employee pharmacists.
    It’s tough to pay excessively high wages when margins are continually being whittled down by cuts to dispensed prices and by competition from discounters who are backed by large corporations but I still pay my colleagues well over the award.
    I try to be really flexible with regard to working hours, but I am hiring someone to help out, not as a favour! (Like the new graduate who I interviewed who told me she wanted well over the award because she was doing me favour by working in the country, but didn’t want to be left as sole pharmacist because that might make her nervous!!).
    The career development path comments are a little confusing too – what are the career developments that you are looking for in community pharmacy? Apart from ownership/partnership which is one of the two reasons that I am looking for a colleague (1. to help out so I can have a day off and 2. as a potential succession plan) then your career development is to be a managing pharmacist and be the best pharmacist you can be.
    If you, as a union president, are hearing stories that reflect unreasonable demands and unsafe and bullying workplaces, why don’t you name and shame these employers and let young graduates know who to avoid, rather than putting all rural pharmacists in one boat and telling us the system is broken.
    The rest of us will get on with our jobs, treating our employees and customers like family (that happens in rural pharmacy), trying to maintain a profit in a small business that is getting bitten on all sides and constantly criticised in the media (even in our own media) and maintaining our job satisfaction by talking to our customers and colleagues and helping them in times of ill health and confusion.

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