A pharmacy closure in Mount Magnet, WA, due to workforce issues and lack of support from the local medical surgery has led to renewed calls for a rural pharmacy viability package in the 7CPA
Mount Magnet, a small remote town in Western Australia, has lost its only pharmacy after the business became “unviable”.
As the pharmacy owners said in a social media post: “We did our best to avoid this, but we have been experiencing serious financial difficulties especially in the last couple of years which made the business unviable.
“We understand that our customers will not be happy with losing the convenience of a pharmacy in town, but we did not have any other choice and it is entirely out of our hands.”
The owners said difficulty recruiting pharmacists and the local medical service refusing to utilise the pharmacy meant that closure was “inevitable”.
“A huge shortage in the pharmacy workforce” was the first contributing factor, part owner Michel Ibrahim told the ABC.
“In order to get a pharmacist up there, the wages are huge and in order to sustain a pharmacist up there we had to have more business which we didn’t get in the town of Mount Magnet.”
Mr Ibrahim added that the local doctor’s surgery, the Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS), chose to source its medication from Geraldton which is about 340 km (just over three-and-a-half hours’ drive) away from Mount Magnet.
“They didn’t give us a chance to provide the medication for the town,” said Mr Ibrahim.
“We tried to talk to them since the first day we ever started business there about six-and-a-half years ago and we couldn’t get a straight clear answer except that GRAMS have always sourced their medication from Rangeway Pharmacy and they’ve been doing business with them for years and there’s no need to change them.”
Mount Magnet Shire President Jorgen Jensen said the closure of the pharmacy will have “quite a large impact”.
“While the pharmacy has been in town, anyone going to the nursing post can have those pharmaceuticals mostly in town or they’re not far away. Now it’s going to be possibly a 2-4 day wait for those same pharmaceuticals and it’s going to be obviously an impost on the travelling public,” Mr Jensen told the ABC.
“We’ve noticed a huge increase in travelling tourists in the last few years and it was just a very convenient shop to have in town for those reasons.
“It doesn’t just affect Mount Magnet, it affects Cue to a degree and moreso Sandstone.
“I’ve spoken to the Department of Health and GRAMS. I don’t think there’s any real appetite to change anything which I think is unfortunate because there’s an individual who’s taken the risk on himself and set up a business in a small town like Mount Magnet and it was doing quite well for a few years. It’s just struggled along without any support from government-funded bodies.
“I’d certainly like the service returned in some way, shape or form. So that’ll probably be the direction we’re taking. It’s all we can do is keep asking.”
A Rural Pharmacy Network Australia (RPNA) spokesperson told AJP: “This unfortunate situation puts the spotlight on a wider problem of pharmacy contracts being awarded to non-local providers and smaller rural pharmacies being overlooked in the process.
“RPNA has said before that healthcare in a small country town is like a milking stool – the strength of the system relies on all providers working together as part of a team,” said the spokesperson.
“RPNA also contends that rural communities around Australia are being adversely affected by a ‘one size fits all’ pharmacy remuneration system that is impacting viability and constraining rural pharmacies from delivering vital services.
“This is why RPNA is calling on all parties to the 7CPA to deliver a rural pharmacy viability package – a package that compensates rural pharmacies for the higher costs associated with delivering care to disadvantaged patients, the costs associated with attracting and retaining staff in rural and remote locations, and appropriate and flexible funding for clinical healthcare services.”