Poll: Should there be mandatory work requirements for owners?

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How many hours do you think pharmacy owners should be required to work in their pharmacies

During the recent inquiry into the establishment of a pharmacy council and pharmacy ownership in Queensland, the topic of “absentee landlord” owners – especially of multiple pharmacies – was brought up during public hearings.

In turn, the Small Pharmacies Group has raised concerns about the prevalence of aggregated and absentee ownership.

“If the purpose of pharmacist ownership is to ensure better health outcomes for patients, measures need to be taken to discourage this model,” says Katie Stott, a spokesperson for the group.

“Professor Stephen King has suggested that ownership might as well be deregulated because of the number of absentee owners, but a simpler solution could be to introduce a compulsory minimum number of hours that owners are required to work in each of their pharmacies.”

Dr Stott (PhD) is referring to Professor King’s comments at a public hearing for the Queensland inquiry into the establishment of a pharmacy council, held in August this year.

Professor King, who is a commissioner with the Productivity Commission and chaired the recent Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation, told the hearing that in his personal opinion – based upon visits to a number of pharmacies around the country and hearings during the review – the ownership rules were “good in theory” but “not working in practice”.

“In theory, it is a good thing to have a health care practitioner directly responsible for the outcome of their patients – whether a GP, whether a specialist, whether a pharmacist,” he told the hearing.

“You want the individual who’s providing the medical service to have… skin in the game as far as the patient’s welfare and the patient’s outcome is concerned.”

But this theory was tested, in his observation, during King Review research into the sector.

“There are a large number of pharmacy owners who may best be categorised as absentee landlords,” he said.

He said he asked shop-floor pharmacists how often their pharmacy’s owners visited, and answers varied from “never” to “perhaps once every three months”.

“In Western Australia I was talking to one of the owners who came along to one of our sessions,” he told the Queensland hearing.

“This was an owner who had maximised the number of pharmacies they could own in Western Australia, in Queensland… and in Victoria. And I actually asked him: ‘How often do you get to each of these pharmacies?’ and he says, ‘Well, usually once a year I get to do a bit of a road trip around the various states’. I think he lived in Melbourne.

“If the idea is to have that very close connection through the ownership rules between a pharmacist and the patients who are receiving the medicines from that pharmacist, clearly this pharmacist, and that’s just one example… that’s not what these rules are achieving.”

He said he had seen no evidence that an absentee owner was any better than an absentee shareholder owner or co-operative structure.

What do you think? Should there be mandatory work requirements for owners?

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