Rural and remote health, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, are key areas that have needed more attention for some time, says Grant Martin, CEO of the Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy.
He welcomed the doubling of funding for new and expanded pharmacy services in the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, particularly in these areas.
“The focus on rural health is absolutely required,” Martin told the AJP. “The only shame is that it’s taken so long.
“There’s a huge need and requirement for these programs to be expanded, especially for the ATSI population, who have gotten the rough end of the stick for many years now. Expansion of these programs is a must, as is having greater access to pharmacy services for rural and remote people.
“It was pleasing that the programs are still there in the new Agreement, and pleasing that they’re going to continue under the current rules, at least for the time being.”
Martin says provisions to help further quantify the good provided by pharmacy services such as HMRs is a positive development.
“I think there had been some criticism of some of the programs over time that some of the cost-benefit analysis wasn’t there, or the research into the programs.
“Having a system where we’re required to show the benefit of the program to the people paying the bill, the taxpayers, is a major plus, and gives us the opportunity to look at the programs and really show that pharmacy is out there providing benefit.”
He says that it’s disappointing that the Australian Medical Association is resisting expansion of pharmacists in primary care, particularly as on the ground he sees pharmacists and GPs working very effectively together.
“That’s what a pharmacist is: a primary health care provider,” he says.
“What we should really be looking at increasing is collaboration. If we know what the GPs are doing, and they know what we’re doing, the consumer will be the winner.
“At grass roots level, that’s understood. Sometimes as you go up the tree the politics can get in the way somewhat, but I’ve seen any number of doctor-pharmcist teams working together to do wonderful things for their patients.”