Push for pharmacist recall remuneration

The Guild has outlined some of its concerns about red tape in a submission to the Senate Inquiry on the issue

The inquiry Committee is examining the red-tape effect on pharmacy rules in a number of areas, including its effect on compliance costs, economic output, employment and government revenue; health and safety impacts; and the effectiveness of this and former Federal Governments’ attempts to reduce it.

The Pharmacy Guild, in its submission, highlighted several areas of concern:

Variance across jurisdictions when it comes to medicines recalls was highlighted, with the Guild pointing out that during the Valium recall earlier this year, different Health Departments advised that pharmacists had different permitted courses of action varying between scenarios and states and territories.

“A uniform process to be followed for medicine recalls would maximise efficiency/simplicity, and ensure recall-related tasks were commensurate with any remuneration provided,” says the Guild.

“Most importantly, it would ensure that patients benefit from a consistent approach across both individual recalls and pharmacies.

“The Guild also believes that pharmacists should reasonably expect to be paid for the time and effort when they are asked to manage the process on behalf of the manufacturer.”

Goods and Services Tax, and the necessity to lodge Business Activity Statements, present cash flow challenges in addition to a red tape burden, it says.

“The ability for a pharmacy to claim and receive reimbursement for the GST component before the supplier’s invoice is due to be paid directly affects the pharmacy’s cash flow with other subsequent flow on effects (eg overdrafts).

“Additionally, the need for pharmacies to manage the bespoke GST arrangements that apply to medicines result in a significant increase in paperwork for no apparent benefit to their patients.”

Industrial relations are a problem, with “rigidity and lack of flexibility in the industrial relations system” discouraging pharmacies from employing staff, impacting opening times and service levels, the submission says.

The Guild also says that Paid Parental Leave is a burden for community pharmacy, which involves high numbers of women as both owners and employees.

This, coupled with the “paymaster” role for employers under the current scheme, is “an administrative and financial burden” on the sector.

Cross-border payroll tax issues are problematic for some owners due to the variable rates of payroll tax – for example, 2.5% in South Australia to 6.85% in the ACT – and the varying thresholds at which they apply.

“Additionally, it needs to be recognised that payroll tax can be a disincentive which discourages businesses from employing additional staff,” it says. “This is particularly the case if a small business is approaching a payroll tax threshold and this additional on-cost can be the deciding factor in whether to increase staffing levels or not.”

The Guild also pointed out pressures to do with retail leasing and workplace relations compliance, as well as red tape generated by “administrative problems” with the PBS.

These include retention of PBS and RPBS records; payment of concessional PBS prescriptions during PBS Online outages; standardised access to PBS medicines at the approved price; inability to pass on surcharges; and overnight stock devaluation when price disclosure and other regulatory arrangements hit.  

The Guild also says medicines shortages are a significant problem, and better processes must be implemented to manage them and mitigate the impact on patients.

“The Guild believes the management of medicine shortages can best be achieved by the Department of Health working with relevant stakeholders to develop and implement a strategy to proactively prevent and manage shortages.”

Read the full submission here.

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