Enforcement of the Ownership Act in Queensland is not being performed adequately, a public hearing has heard
The Guild has made its case for the retention of pharmacist ownership during a number of public hearings this week.
Queensland’s inquiry into the establishment of a pharmacy council and transfer of pharmacy ownership in Queensland has seen public hearings take place in regional areas including Toowoomba, Townsville and Cairns over the last week, following two hearings in Brisbane.
Pharmacy Guild Queensland president has updated the state’s Guild members this week in a message in which he thanked the pharmacist witnesses who appeared before the Committee to support the Guild’s case.
The Guild is arguing for the establishment of a Pharmacy Council as well as giving pharmacists the ability to practise to their full scope in Queensland.
As pointed out to Ramsay CEO Peter Giannopoulos during one of the Brisbane hearings, almost all of the more than 200 submissions to the inquiry support the upholding of the current ownership laws, with submissions from Ramsay Pharmacy and Chemist Warehouse being notable exceptions.
“I believe the Guild has had an opportunity to put our case to the Committee over the course of its public hearings and through our substantial formal written submission,” Mr Twomey wrote to Queensland Guild members.
He highlighted the input of legal counsel to the Guild on pharmacy ownership, Professor Khory McCormick, who told the hearing that the enforcement of the Pharmacy Business Ownership Act in Queensland was inadequate.
“The act is not being administered effectively. Something has to change in the way Queensland approaches this,” Professor McCormick said.
Mr Twomey also repeated the words of the Chair of the Pharmacy Board of Australia, Bill Kelly, who at the Cairns hearing said that the establishment of a Pharmacy Council in Queensland would “start to bring it in line with other jurisdictions”.
“Anything towards harmonisation is certainly welcome,” Mr Kelly said.
He said that it would be desirable and in the public interest to establish a premises regulator in Queensland, to ensure minimum standards; and that rather than having Queensland Health fulfil this role, it should be performed independently.
“Experienced pharmacy sector accountant Peter Saccasan told the Committee of the substantial documentary evidence in relation to pecuniary interest required for pharmacy approvals in NSW, compared to Queensland,” Mr Twomey wrote.
“In my final opportunity to address the Committee, I said the inquiry should be about ensuring that medicines are provided in a safe and efficacious way to all Queenslanders regardless of where they live.
“As the Queensland Productivity Commission showed in its submission, one pharmacy inspection every 7.2 years shows the current process isn’t up to scratch.
“I also said there is a big gap in terms of the standards for community pharmacies in Queensland because of the absence of a Pharmacy Council.
“In the absence of measuring health outcomes, what we have is a default proxy system which measures minimum standards and at the moment we are not doing half that job in Queensland.
“On scope of practice, our contention is that all impediments to pharmacists practising to their full scope of practice In Queensland should be removed.”
Also speaking at the hearing was Georgina Twomey, who owns three community pharmacies in Far North Queensland, and Mr Twomey’s wife.
“I strongly believe in the merit of pharmacist ownership of pharmacies – because of the clinical governance, accountability, ethics and care pharmacists are required to provide as part of their professional responsibilities,” Ms Twomey told the panel.
“I strongly believe that pharmacists will put their patients first, ahead of profit.
“One example I can give is my Innisfail pharmacy which is open seven days a week – 8am till 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 6pm on weekends and public holidays.
“A profit-only approach to my business would see me reduce those extended hours substantially because they are not profitable.
“But as a pharmacist I am concerned about the lack of availability of health services in that community after hours, so I have decided to continue opening beyond normal business hours as a service to patients.
“As a pharmacist who has complied with the Pharmacy Business Ownership Act, I want to be able to be confident that other pharmacy businesses have also complied – a level playing field is fair, and in the interests of consumers.
“Patients are also entitled to feel confident that – through a Pharmacy Council – their local pharmacy premises meets all the relevant clinical standards and requirements.”