Many pharmacists are turning their backs on the profession – and more than 80% say they would not recommend it as a career
Professional Pharmacists Australia president Dr Geoff March has slammed big corporates and banner groups in an introduction to the union’s newly released 2018 Community Pharmacists Report.
“2018 has seen the intensification of the shift away from professionalism towards commercialism,” Dr March writes.
“Approximately 60% of the ‘My Chemist’ group’s revenue comes from retail product sales.
“The tradition of local pharmacy being independent has been further eroded with greater concentration of ownership into smaller groups of owners and corporations through complex legal arrangements.
“The four largest corporates and banner groups now account for 70% of revenue in community pharmacy.”
This trend, combined with a continued decline in real wages across most of the profession, including via another round of cuts to penalty rates, together create a greater imbalance of power between larger employers, which have human resource departments, and individual employee pharmacists, he writes.
“The result is the lower reported wages for pharmacists working at discount pharmacies.”
In a statement on its website, PPA also said that “discount pharmacies like Chemist Warehouse are leading the race to the bottom on wages”.
“They use low rates of pay to support their focus on profits. To compete, more traditional pharmacies and banner groups like Amcal and Priceline are also lower their wages.
“Many pharmacists are turning their backs on the industry, saying they see no future in the profession.”
The PPA found that morale in the profession is not good.
When asked whether they would recommend pharmacy as a career, only 17.2% said yes.
“Pharmacists working for independent pharmacies not under a banner group were the most positive, but even then only 22% said they would recommend pharmacy as a career,” the report said.
“Attitudes were particularly negative within National Pharmacies where only 3.8% of respondents said they would recommend pharmacy.
“There are many factors within the pharmacy industry that contribute to these low levels of morale. Survey respondents were given a list of general issues from which they could specify any number as contributing towards the unhappiness they feel within their current employment situation.
“The top three factors contributing towards unhappiness across all community pharmacists were the ‘pressure/stress of work’, ‘inadequate staffing’ and ‘poor pay’.
“Each of these was identified by more than half of respondents. Respondents could indicate they felt no unhappiness by selecting ‘not applicable’, however only 9.1% of respondents felt that way, the least reported of all.”
How much are you paid?
The report examined rates of pay and found a mean hourly rate of $24.50 for interns; $32.77 for pharmacists; $37.73 for experienced pharmacists; $37.76 for pharmacists in charge; and $39.35 for pharmacist managers.
The gender pay gap was small, with a mean base hourly rate of $36.72 for men and $36.38 for women; pharmacists in WA were the best paid, with a mean of $39.92 per hour, while those in Victoria, earning a mean $34.86, earned the lowest base hourly rate.
Hospital pharmacists generally reported higher base salaries than their colleagues in community pharmacy, whether the latter were paid a salary (which was uncommon) or an hourly wage.
The mean base salary for a community pharmacist was $76,333, and for a hospital pharmacist, $88,214.
This rose to $93,000 (community) and $102,233 (hospital) for an experienced pharmacist; pharmacists-in-charge in community pharmacies earned $88,967, and pharmacist managers $92,289. Meanwhile directors of pharmacy in hospitals earned $136,250.
Since 2013, PPA has reported an annual decline in pay rates, but this more recent survey showed signs of a turnaround, with growth ranging from 0.4% for a pharmacist up to 2.5% for pharmacists in charge. These rises still see most wages decline against the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index.
Discount pharmacies consistently paid less than traditional banner group pharmacies at every classification, with a median hourly rate of pay much less for pharmacy managers. In discounters, they earned a mean of $34.63; in banner group pharmacies, $40.92.
Of those banner groups that had 10 or more respondents to the survey, pharmacists working at Chemist Warehouse had the lowest median hourly rates of pay both overall and at every classification excluding Pharmacy Intern. National Pharmacies pharmacists reported the highest median hourly rates of pay.
“Roughly one in five pharmacists reported not having a written employment agreement outlining their conditions of employment, remuneration and hours of work,” the report found.
“The situation was worse for those working in independent pharmacies not part of a larger banner group where 38.0% reported not having a written employment agreement.
“Pharmacists employed in discount pharmacy chains were much more likely to have
written employment agreements and every pharmacist employed by National Pharmacies reported having a written employment agreement.”
As for professional services performed, 69% of pharmacists employed by discount pharmacies and 65.1% of those at banner groups performed MedsChecks; 27.6% at discounters and 37.4% at banner pharmacies gave vaccinations; and 25.9% of those at discounters and 24.6% of those at banner group pharmacies said they performed no professional services at all.
PPA also asked pharmacists whether they worked through their lunch break, and found this practice extremely prevalent, with 48.3% of pharmacists doing so.
This was most common at Priceline (82.8%); at independent pharmacies (59.8%); and at “other” banner groups and TerryWhite Chemmart, at 52.4% and 52.2% respectively. National Pharmacies employees were the most likely to have their break, with only 17.9% working through.
Of those who worked through, 50.6% were remunerated for doing so; this was most likely at National Pharmacies (81.8%) and least likely at Discount Drug Store pharmacies (40%).