Pharmacy’s financial crisis and slave labour


Australia can wave goodbye to any expansion of pharmacy services unless the falling remuneration from PBS prescriptions is addressed, award-winning pharmacist tells politicians

Speaking after being honoured for his service to pharmacy at the NSW Pharmacy Guild dinner in Sydney on Thursday, Peter Feros said the Australian community pharmacy sector is in crisis due to declining PBS remuneration.

The Federal government needed to act if it wanted pharmacy to effectively deliver the health services it is capable of providing, he said. 

The ongoing financial crisis in the sector was causing employed pharmacists to desert the profession, Mr Feros said, adding that “community pharmacy in Australia for years has been based on the back of slave labour of (mainly) female pharmacists, and it will not continue.

“We will not be able to deliver the healthcare services that we could unless the federal government addresses the issue of what the remuneration is for PBS dispensing”. 

Peter Feros was awarded a Distinguished Service Award from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia

Mr Feros, was awarded the Guild’s Distinguished Service Award at the dinner, which was held at NSW Parliament House and attended by 20 MPs along with many leading pharmacists and healthcare, finance and pharmaceutical leaders. 

In presenting the award, David Heffernan, Pharmacy Guild (NSW) president said Mr Feros was an “owner, innovator, consultant, commentator, intellect – and always very much an advocate for community pharmacy. He has always aimed to innovate across multiple formats of pharmacy and service delivery.” 

Mr Feros launched a passionate defence of pharmacy ownership rules saying it was from within community pharmacy itself that computerisation of the sector began, at least a decade before computing arrived to more corporatised pharmacy environments such as the US and UK.

“The most important factors as a pharmacist are your training, your experience, your ethical responsibility, and your primary focus on the healthcare of the patient,” he said. “You don’t get these from an accountant in a corporate body”.   

“I heard the politicians tonight speak about the role community pharmacy can play in healthcare. However, the way we’re going, this won’t happen as the Australian community pharmacy sector is in crisis, it’s in financial crisis because there is a monopsonous purchaser – the Australian government, which has screwed community pharmacy remuneration to a level where the viability of many individual pharmacies in in question, and more importantly we cannot afford to pay our workers a reasonable salary so they stay in the sector,” Mr Feros said. 

“Unless this issue of PBS remuneration is addressed by the federal government you can forget us providing any future healthcare extended services”.  

 

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. Owen Patrick Mellon
    26/10/2019

    Peter Feros, an outstanding industry leader who is correct in relation to the crisis that is occurring gently under the waves. Be under no illusion comrades, the 60 day dispensing opens a door for 90 and/or 180 day supply. Price Disclosure has had the effect the Government wanted. Time to put the Profession where it belongs to the forefront of a Complete Healthcare Solution for all Australians before it is too late. Look across the Tasman to see the effects of free prescriptions. Look at the deregulated markets around the world. Only unity will be enough to fight the challenges and become shepherds not sheep meekly going into pasture. Deregulation will happen. Strongly advise you to be ready for this day. Stand up and fight for your colleagues, clients, patients and Australia to remain one of the best Pharmaceutical Sectors in the world today.

  2. Amin-Reza Javanmard
    26/10/2019

    Also the slave labour of BAME pharmacists, which research from the UK featured in this very publication indicates are paid even less than the depressed wages of female pharmacists in general.

    • Paul Sapardanis
      26/10/2019

      whats BAME?

      • Amin-Reza Javanmard
        26/10/2019

        Black, Asian, Middle Eastern

        • Peter Crothers
          28/10/2019

          Originally Black Asian Minority-Ethnic

    • Lydia Gaidell
      27/10/2019

      Never heard this term “BAME” before – interesting terminology.

      • Jarrod McMaugh
        27/10/2019

        widely used in the UK where the workforce is more diverse, but still encounters significant disparities, including in pharmacy career progression & registrations.

        • Lydia Gaidell
          27/10/2019

          I see…not familiar with this in Australia but an eye opener all the same

          • Pete
            28/10/2019

            According to the ONS (office for national statistics) Chinese and Indian workers in the UK outearn their white British counterparts by almost £10,000 a year, the first government ethnic pay gap data has revealed. Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups (£12.33), White other (£11.33), any other Asian group (£11.50), Black, African, Carribean or Black British (£10.92), Pakistani (£10.00), Other ethnic group (£10.92) and Bangladeshi (£9.60). Not sure if its the same for pharmacists. I’ve not heard of BAME before.

          • Jarrod McMaugh
            28/10/2019
    • Peter Crothers
      28/10/2019

      This is an issue here as well. Although I think it has become a tiny bit more complicated than direct employer exploitation in every case. More than once a BAME applicant I’ve been interviewing has basically volunteered to work for less, at least initially. In other words the fact of discrimination against BAME people has entered the whole employment consciousness. Bloody tragic

    • Anne Todd
      28/10/2019

      And in particular as you pointed out recently are a key aspect of the Big box’s ability to keep their operational costs down, is the use of early career pharmacists (regardless of ethnicity) and a disincentive to their being able to set up in more rural and regional areas – inability to attract staff. Its not just celebrity chef’s taking advantage of peoples desire and need to work.

      If the Big Box guys get a move on location rules watch and wait them to lobby for the skilled migration visa changes needed.

  3. Bruce ANNABEL
    26/10/2019

    Some data I have noticed over the years. GP$/income per script has increased during the course of 6CPA thanks to risk share (added to AHI 1 July 17 which has since increased and will remain until 2022/23) and introduction of the AHI (introduced 1 July 15) both of which saved pharmacy dispensing profitability, particularly the AHI. The increase would have been higher BUT for many pharmacy banner groups and owners electing to heavily discount below patient co-pay and private scripts. Dispensing profitability is therefore in reasonable shape even despite the discounting. The travesty is owners of the discounter including soft discounter pharmacies keeping pharmacist wages low to help fund that model. All the pharmacies I deal with pay their pharmacists well and truly above the award and have them performing highly productive income generating activities. The critical issue is the 60 day supply proposal recommended by the PBAC last year related to 143 molecules. Focus on fighting that at grass roots level. In the meantime the award is far too low and perhaps a significant lift will incentivise owners to address the roles of pharmacists, productivity and the excessive discounting going on.

    • Paul Sapardanis
      26/10/2019

      I implore every pharmacist to read this post. I wish this could happen sooner please!! btw to pharmacy owners out there please question your banner groups motives and find out if they are working for their own interest and not yours!

    • Still a Pharmacist
      26/10/2019

      If you offer peanuts, you will end up getting monkeys. Owners always see employee pharmacists as cost component and took advantage of oversupply of the pharmacists.

      With current exodus of the good young pharmacists, this scenario is quite predictable.

      When owners were earning very good money, they did nothing for employee pharmacists. Instead they reduced the real wages for the pharmacists.

      Now you want them to join your fight. Very interesting.

  4. Kevin Hayward
    26/10/2019

    Perhaps the PBS funding of community pharmacy core services should be protected from further fiscal demands. Consider funding Pharmacists to provide extended primary care pharmacist led services from a different source?

  5. Lydia Gaidell
    27/10/2019

    I think that the 60 day dispensing rule is downright dangerous for several good reasons. Firstly there are drugs like Lyrica that have the potential to be abused despite not being an opioid. Lyrica can be snorted for a hypnotic/sedative/come down effect which is often part of a recreational drug users “cocktail” of drugs. Studies in UK demonstrate this. Secondly, many elderly people and other people think they manage their medications effectively and safely, however they can over accumulate masses of medication, forget which doses they are taking and possibly double dose or overdose. Thirdly, people have changes in medication and this creates additional waste to the economy and our environment. So particularly that recreational drug users may be able to access MORE non-opioid, non- schedule 8 seemingly non-abusive medication. This is clearly dangerous. There are good reasons to limit the supply of medication to a month. Affordability of medication in Australia is good – there really is no need to cheapen the pharmacy industry further and pave the way for recklessness and abuse. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/pregabalin-new-valium-doctors-call-restricted-sharp-rise-abuse-misuse-prisons-addiction-bma-yasir-a7817601.html

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fc8sXWopBs

  6. Jim Tsaoucis
    28/10/2019

    I think we have to change the language used, beaurocrats love the word “remuneration” by definition it is a cost recovery exercise. The savings the Govt. has made in the PBS is directly due to the decline in real wages to pharmacist staff, a false economy. Dear Peter, keep up the good fight for us all, and all pharmacists need to be a lot more vocal…

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