Peak industry bodies and health organisations have resoundingly supported the news that Greg Hunt will remain as Health Minister in the recently announced Morrison government reshuffle. messages of congratulations and support were issued by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the National Rural Health Alliance, Medicines Australia and many others.
While welcoming the announcements, all the organisations also took the opportunity to ensure their priorities were clearly understood and firmly on the minister’s radar.
PSA was one of the first to respond, with National President Dr Chris Freeman saying the organisation has an excellent working relationship with Minister Hunt.
“We look forward to continuing to work with [Mr Hunt] and the Morrison government to make full use of pharmacists’ expertise and clinical training, improving access to care and medicine safety for all Australian,” he said.
In particular, PSA welcomed Mr Hunt’s commitment on behalf of the government that it would declare quality use of medicines and medicines safety a National Health Priority Area. This is seen by PSA as a vital step forward in addressing the alarming issue of medicine-related harm.
Dr Freeman acknowledged the government’s 2019-20 budget commitment for a Canberra-based trial to embed pharmacists in aged care facilities to improve medication management.
“PSA’s ‘Medicine safety: take care’ report showed that more than 90 per cent of residents in a residential aged care facility have at least one medicine-related problem and as many as 80 per cent are prescribed potentially inappropriate medicines,” he said.
“PSA looks forward to working with Minister Hunt and [new Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians] Senator [Richard] Colbeck on this trial and helping to inform further nationwide initiatives.”
Guild National President George Tambassis also congratulated Mr Hunt, saying the reappointment ensures Mr Hunt’s experience and knowledge of the pharmacy sector will continue to be utilised during what will be a challenging time ahead.
“We’re heading into the negotiating period for the next Community Pharmacy Agreement and it’s invaluable that we have a Minister who has such a deep and positive understanding of the role community pharmacies play across the country,” Mr Tambassis said.
He added that Mr Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison had pledged support for community pharmacy in a letter written to the Guild during the election campaign.
“That letter highlights our role as health professionals while also acknowledging community pharmacies are small businesses that face all the issues of other small business across Australia,” Mr Tambassis said.
“There are some issues which we need to address, such as replacing the $1 discount with a universal $1 drop in prescription prices, and also working towards enabling pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice.
“But with Mr Hunt as Minister, the Guild is confident we can work collaboratively towards positive outcomes which help to ensure certainty for the profession and better health outcomes for patients.”
Mr Tambassis also congratulated Ken Wyatt on his appointment as Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
“Community pharmacies play a pivotal role in providing medicines and health services to indigenous … people and I look forward to discussing with the new Minister how we can further improve access to community pharmacy services for these communities,” he said.
Also acknowledging Mr Hunt’s experience, the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), Australia’s peak body for rural, regional and remote health, welcomed his reappointment, saying he was well briefed on what’s needed to improve the lives of the more than seven million people living outside metropolitan cities.
“Mr Hunt has a head start in the portfolio,” NRHA CEO Mark Diamond said. “He knows access to health services is the critical issue for people in remote, regional and rural Australia.”
NRHA has been clear that boosting access to health services via telehealth and increased broadband connectivity, plus boosting the allied health workforce in those areas are key priorities for Mr Hunt.
“We especially look forward to working with the Minister on the Coalition’s pre-election commitment to deliver more than 3,000 additional nurses and allied health professionals into rural general practice as part of its Stronger Rural Health Strategy,” Mr Diamond said.
“We look forward to meeting with the Minister in coming weeks to resume these discussions.
Medicines Australia CEO Elizabeth de Somer further echoed the emerging confidence in Minister Hunt.
“Medicines Australia is delighted to see the continuation of Greg Hunt in the health portfolio as Minister for Health,” she said. “Prime Minister Morrison has made the right call in keeping the critical portfolio of health in the capable hands of Minister Hunt, as we continue to implement the improvements agreed under the 2017 Strategic Agreement, streamline processes and reduce delays in access to new and breakthrough medicines.
“Medicines Australia has enjoyed a positive working relationship with Minister Hunt, and we welcome the opportunity to reinforce our important work together to ensure the prompt implementation and delivery on the commitments made to the sector during the election campaign. This includes a review of the National Medicines Policy, long-awaited clinical trial reform, and reduced listing times and processes.”
Consumer Healthcare Products Australia CEO Dr Deon Schoombie welcomed the announcements, saying: “We’ve had a strong working relationship with the Coalition government since 2013 and we look forward to advancing consumer health through responsible self care with the Morrison government and Minister Hunt.
“Prior to the election we outlined to the Coalition our priorities, which includes greater investment and focus on measures to improve health literacy and preventive health, grow the consumer healthcare products industry through manufacturing and export opportunities, and increase access to non-prescription medicines so that consumers are empowered to make greater choices for their own self care.”
“We will be seeking a meeting with Minister Hunt as soon as possible to outline our priorities and discuss how the consumer healthcare products industry can work constructively with the government.”
Mr Schoombie also welcomed the appointment of Mr Colbeck as Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians to the health team.