Major health groups representing patients are urging the Albanese Government, and senators from all parties, to pause the implementation of 60-day dispensing (60DD), as a new survey shows hundreds of pharmacies are reducing opening hours, cutting staff, and increasing fees for services.
The nationwide survey of 1000 community pharmacies, conducted by the Pharmacy Guild, shows almost one in four (23%) have reduced opening hours and more than half (54%) have increased fees for services. 250 pharmacy workers have also been made redundant.
It comes as the Australian Patients Association, Pain Australia, Better Access Australia, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Pharmacy Guild are calling for the policy to be delayed by supporting a disallowance motion in the Senate to help prevent further unintended consequences impacting patients, aged care residents and pharmacies.
‘Delay until viability of pharmacies guaranteed’
Pain Australia Chief Executive Giulia Jones said the policy should be delayed until the viability of pharmacies in rural and regional areas is guaranteed.
“We believe there needs to be time to ensure no rural and regional pharmacies will close when people with chronic pain already struggle to get access to the pain medications they need in rural and regional Australia.”
‘Cheaper medicines worth nothing if no one dispensing’
Better Access Australia Chairwoman Felicity McNeill PSM said cheaper medicine is worth nothing if there is no one in your local area to dispense it.
“Better Access Australia are seeing huge pressure on pharmacies to deliver the Opiate Dependence Treatment Program because the Government didn’t do its homework before rushing out the announceable.
“The parliament needs to give everyone in the community the time to make sure this reform works for everyone: patients, pharmacies, suppliers, wholesalers, government.”
‘Community pharmacy struggling to come to terms with changes’
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) Lead for the Community Pharmacy Agreement Dr Shane Jackson said “alignment of the implementation of the 8th Community Pharmacy Agreement is paramount to give patients, the profession and the healthcare sector certainty”.
“Currently, community pharmacy is struggling to come to terms with the impacts of these changes and it makes sense to pause, consult and implement a policy that leaves community pharmacy in a better position to address the current challenges affecting patients accessing healthcare,” Dr Jackson said.
‘Delaying rollout the right move’
Pharmacy Guild Vice President Anthony Tassone said delaying the rollout is the right move for pharmacies and patients.
“All pharmacists want to make medicines more affordable for their patients, but we can’t do this in a way that forces hundreds of pharmacies to close, puts thousands of pharmacy workers out of a job, and increases the cost of services for every aged care resident in the country.
“We are asking senators to support a disallowance motion to pause the rollout of 60-day dispensing, which will provide more time for the Government to consult and get this policy right.
“The Pharmacy Guild is ready and willing to sit down with the Albanese Government to get this policy right and safeguard the future of 6,000 community pharmacies across the country.”
Text: Pharmacy Guild of Australia.