Remote dispensing equity

Aboriginal flag flies next to Australian flag

The Guild has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that remuneration for dispensing medicines under the Remote Area Aboriginal Health Service Program will be adjusted to be equivalent to the PBS dispensing fee when not a bulk supply.

This follows advocacy by the Guild over a long period of time to address a systemic flaw in the remuneration for dispensing by pharmacists in remote Aboriginal communities.

The announcement at the Guild’s Annual parliamentary Dinner last night fulfils Mr Turnbull’s commitment given in his 2016 election letter to the Guild that the Government would work to resolve the issue. 

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, gave a similar commitment in his election letter, and also welcomed the decision last night.

Mr Turnbull told guests at the dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament: “During the election I promised you that I would look at ways to improve the Quality Use of Medicines under the Remote Area Aboriginal Health Service Program by ensuring appropriate remuneration for pharmacists who deliver rural and remote scripts in that setting. 

“So, I am very pleased to announce that from the 1st of January next year, 2017, total payment for these rural scripts will be equivalent to the full dispensing fee,” Mr Turnbull said.

The RAAHS Program is a special supply arrangement administered under Section 100 of the National Health Act 1953. Under the program, patients receive their medicines from their local community pharmacy, enabling these PBS medicines to be provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as they present to the RAAHS without the need for a normal prescription form and without being charged.

The program was implemented in 1999 to address the geographical, cultural and financial barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in remote areas face in accessing essential Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines.

The National President of the Guild, George Tambassis, said: “The RAAHS program has improved access to medicines on the PBS, representing one of the most positive developments in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health service delivery for many years.

“The announcement last night is a very welcome and common sense change to the arrangements in the best interests of Closing the Gap in Aboriginal morbidity and mortality.”

The Guild has advocated that the s100 RAAHS program be amended so that the remuneration for PBS medicines that are being dispensed to individual patients is consistent with normal remuneration for s85 dispensing to other patients in any other community.

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