What you said: Salaries, shortages and supermarkets

AJP has received a huge response to some recent stories covering regional workforce shortages and remuneration

We have received many comments over the past few weeks in relation to the AJP series Workforce Woes and Workforce Woes: Part 2, and A Threat to Certainty.

Here is a varied selection of comments discussing the current pharmacy model and the future of the profession (comments have been edited for length).

Wages & workload

“Today’s pharmacists are expected to do far more than pharmacists 10 or 20 years ago. But their remuneration has not increased. It has of course dropped in real terms. Every quarter bills and costs such as road tolls go up. Pharmacists wages do not.” – Tony Soffer


“The profession is unrecognisable from where it was when I first registered in the late 80s. Workload is up enormously, many owners are using pharmacy as a cash cow without regard for the profession and employees. Tighter market conditions over the past 15 or so years has encouraged many to simply swing the leather strap harder. Pharmacists are dispirited, resentful.” – The Cynic


“We seem to have a bit of a catch 22 with pharmacist wages. I assume everyone is aware that dispensing fees are tied to the award, so that those fees aren’t outstripped by rising wages.

“We also know that many pharmacies pay above the award, and are effectively punished by the fee being paid based on award, since the lowest paying employer is paid the same as the highest paying employer.

“The fact that the award influenced the dispensing fee is important to remember. Most owners I know want the award to rise, because they are already paying double or more….. Yet the discounters are not. If the award rises, this effectively drives discounters into a position where fewer of them will be sustainable, easing the pressure on the sector. Saying the Guild and members want wages low isn’t a fact, it’s an assumption made by people who don’t know any better.” – Jarrod McMaugh


“’Many of the single pharmacists we spoke to dispense more than 230 scripts per day and often over 300 on some days.’

“That’s well above the Board guidelines on safe dispensing. Where’s the Board?” – Amin-Reza Javanmard


“Talking about penalty rates, are you aware that supermarkets do not pay penalty rates???? That is right they’ve signed a deal with the Unions to allow them to pay ordinary rate to all shifts and days. I bet none of you knew that?

“Community pharmacy needs to be rewarded according to the services it’s delivering. To discount prescriptions it’s like undervaluing its services. Pharmacist employees need to be rewarded according to their skills and accountability.

“Government needs to recognise this as it’s in the best interest of the tax payers.” – Bernard Lou


“I finally left pharmacy last year after I developed severe anxiety and hyperventilated until I fainted. Ever since I registered 7 years ago, I’ve been chasing the magical land of pharmacy to no avail. Every pharmacy I ended up working at (in Syd) was a slave yard, flogging pharmacists to check 60+/scripts per hour, while simultaneously expecting you to put a dozen tubs of orders away. I was valued purely on my companion selling skills over product knowledge and advice. On weekends, I was left alone to do 350+ scripts as a sole pharmacist, while joggling a million patient queries in store and on the phone. 

“I kept thinking this is normal until one Sunday, during a busy rush hour, my eyes went blurry, my chest started pounding and I hyperventilated till I fainted in the back of dispensary. I woke up in the back room to ambulance officers and my technician. I got to go home that day feeling broken and inadequate. I was so embarrassed and resigned from my job after that shift. I thought about going back to pharmacy but every time I decided to apply for a role my anxiety came back. I’m now re-training and back to my old self. Happy, cheerful and laugh again.” – Raj Khatri

Rural living

“It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make it appealing, living in regional areas in Australia is not great compared to living in larger towns or cities. It definitely offers more relaxed lifestyle but there’s nothing much to do… The sense of isolation can easily get you if you are living alone and with no family. I used to locum in a far town in WA and there were many TV ads targeting younger population to help with suicidal thoughts caused by isolation.” – Hany Aita


“We advertised for months … for an experienced pharmacist of even a few years and were offering 100k per year and then bonuses for performance.

“Challenging, clinical role, very little ‘selling shampoos’ and got almost zero applicants. My friend down the road was offering even more and he’s been advertising even longer.

“The problem? 2.5 hours from Melbourne. Open your eyes pharmacists – the world does not end at the outskirts of whatever overpriced, overpopulated, oversupplied job market city you live in.” – Tim Shelton


“It really touched a chord with me reading everyone’s comments here.  For the record, I’m one of those millennials that did go out rural and worked in a small town for 2 years. I got to save up a little bit and met some interesting people. But overall, was it worth it? Probably not, at least not for me. 

“For someone growing up in Sydney, rural life was really dull and it was even harder to make friends. And now that I’m back in Sydney I’ve realised how much worse things have gotten in pharmacy. I wish I’d spent those 2 years back at Uni and studying again. 

“The current model of community pharmacy is not clinically challenging or financially rewarding, making all of us dissatisfied and in despair.” – Sandy Wong

Supermarkets and the CPA

“I’d love to see some of the other associations involved in allocating CPA funds, but while the guild remains the sole negotiator and administrator of the funds I’m not expecting to see a great deal of sharing going on.

“At the end of the day the question should be, how do we get the best health outcomes for the public per $ of CPA funds spent. The viability of a shop should never be a consideration.” – Andrew


“I am not a guild member, I am not even an owner. I would urge all the pharmacists calling for supermarkets to enter pharmacy to have a close look at how supermarkets operate regarding staff hours and workloads, self-serving computers replacing humans in the name of efficiencies and then having more systems for avoiding theft.” – Usman Hameed


“How does the Guild and the CPA function to benefit employee pharmacists specifically?

“This is one of many issues but I feel it is a topic often dodged by the Guild, yet is a primary concern amongst all the non-owner pharmacists out there.” – Mark Jacobs


“The vast majority of registered pharmacists are employed in community pharmacies, with various workforce surveys and other analysis (including from previous government agencies such as Health Workforce Agency) have found that approximately 65% of the pharmacist workforce work in community pharmacy.

“Non-proprietor pharmacists benefit from community pharmacy agreements as it helps provide certainty to the sector and remuneration for services through the community pharmacy infrastructure. The viable and sustainable the community pharmacy sector is, the greater likelihood of job security for the workforce.

“Remuneration for services through community pharmacy agreements can help expand the role of pharmacists and community pharmacy for consumer benefit.

“There could be a variety of reasons and factors why wages have stagnated over the past decade, but a significant one would be the impacts of price disclosure and PBS reform. Many of the proprietors I speak to want to recognise their staff as best as they can, but their business may only have a certain capacity to do so.” – Anthony Tassone

Get involved in the AJP Discussion Forum on the topic here

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