A petition before Parliament and also running on Change.org is calling for hazard allowance and tax-free income for “bombarded” pharmacists and pharmacy staff
“While most doctors are consulting online, we remain open and work at frontline,” write the pharmacists behind a petition before the House of Representatives.
“We cannot work from home and must have to turn up to work to potentially save the lives of others,” reads the petition.
“We are working very hard behind the scenes to make sure each patient under our care gets timely supply of their medicines. We are still offering medication, device counselling, education to the patients to practise good personal hygiene and social distancing.
“We are always bombarded by consumers for masks, sanitisers, and other enquiries.”
The authors cite fears of infection with COVID-19 and the stress of filling hundreds of scripts per day.
“Additionally, we have been abused, punched, spat on, and even had medicine bottles thrown at us by patients when we cannot fulfil their request either due to shortage of medicines or fear of stockpiling.”
The petition calls on the Federal Government to provide pharmacists and pharmacy staff with hazard allowance and tax-free income (or a “tax holiday”) during the COVID-19 crisis.
It also points out that pharmacists in the United States have been included in legislation creating a tax holiday for health professionals and first responders who continue to serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This legislation suspends federal tax withholding for four months and provides the authority to extend withholding for an additional three months, applying to all income up to $150,000 annually,
The PSA called for pharmacists to be recognised for their work.
“As an essential service, pharmacists have been challenged like never before and called upon by governments and the community to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and continue to care for their patients while putting themselves in harm’s way,” national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman told AJP.
“The reasons that these petitions originate is because pharmacists and their staff feel forgotten during this pandemic. They have been at the frontline, and it is timely to consider how we might acknowledge the tremendous work that pharmacists and their support staff have done.
“It is important that pharmacists are recognised for their tireless and dedicated work during the COVID-19 pandemic – whether it be through action from this petition or other means.”
The Pharmacy Guild said it supported the petition but it was hard to see how it would be enacted.
“We certainly support the sentiment – pharmacies and pharmacy staff are doing it tough and certainly deserve all the support they can get,” a Guild spokesperson told the AJP.
“However, with everything else it is doing to support businesses and employees, it is hard to see how the Government would favour waiving income tax for a discrete sector in the economy.”
Sign the petition before the House of Representatives here
Sign the petition on Change.org here