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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