QAIHC states new pharmacy laws ignore First Nations Queenslanders

The QAIHC have expressed their disappointment in the new pharmacy business ownership laws that do not permit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations (ACCHOs) to own pharmacies.

“The new pharmacy ownership laws are anti-competitive, inequitable, and restrict options for proven successful models of care desperately needed to support the provision of culturally appropriate, comprehensive health care to Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” said QAIHC Public Health Medical Director, Associate Professor Sophia Couzos.

“It is frustrating that the Queensland Government ignored strong advice from QAIHC, AMA Queensland, the RACGP, Productivity Commission and community groups to reject the laws.

“This puts the private profits of pharmacy owners ahead of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their need to quality, culturally safe access to medicines.

“The new laws conflict with the Queensland Governments’ commitment under the National Closing the Gap Agreement to strengthen the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health sector and are inconsistent with the National Medicines Policy, which supports culturally safe and equitable access to medicines.

“Further, they are at odds with robust independent reviews from the Commonwealth, including the Pharmacy Regulations and Remuneration Review and Productivity Commission.”

Under the new laws, an ACCHO can own and run all parts of a collaborative health service except the pharmacy. Only a pharmacist or a close family member can own a pharmacy.

“Big corporate entities can exist with hundreds of outlets across Australia as multibillion dollar corporations, but an Aboriginal medical service, that is intimately connected with its community, is not permitted to own a community pharmacy,” A/Prof Couzos said.

She said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland deserved community-controlled pharmacy care that was tailored to their local community’s needs and values.

“The Miles Labor Government has stated that maintaining the ‘community’ in community pharmacy is its strong belief. But the pharmacy ownership restrictions that were passed does not do that,” she said.

“The ACCHO sector has revolutionised access to medicines for Aboriginal peoples in localities where the dispensing of medicines occurs from directly within the clinic.

“This has been repeatedly and independently evaluated, with medicines access reaching parity with non-Indigenous peoples in these locations. Otherwise, we continue to see only one third of the access to medicines as non-Indigenous through regular community pharmacy models.

“The primary focus of pharmacies owned by the Aboriginal community-controlled health services would be on providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with on-site, holistic, comprehensive, quality, and culturally safe medication dispensing services, always prioritising the health and welfare of their communities over purely commercial interests.

“Such services would hardly pose a commercial threat for existing pharmacies.”

A/Prof Couzos said she was encouraged by the Minister for Health, Shannon Fentiman’s acknowledgement in her Parliamentary speech of the compelling evidence provided to her in support of ACCHO pharmacy ownership, as well as her government’s commitment to closing the gap and improving healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

However, she said a proposal for the new Queensland Pharmacy Business Ownership Council to include one Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative to advise on this matter was problematic.

“In our view, the principles of community control require that Aboriginal community controlled health services, not the new Council, make recommendations about pharmacy ownership arrangements for their populations.”

She said QAIHC would work with the ACCHO sector to provide advice and recommendations to the Minister about appropriate amendments that should be made to the Act to truly support community ownership of medicines dispensing services to close the gap in medicines access for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

 

 

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