PHARMACY jobs and essential free services will be lost unless the community takes a stand, south-west chemists claim.
Chemists across the south-west have been collecting signatures on the Your Pharmacy Under Threat petition, which closes on September 14, in an attempt to thwart the federal government’s planned Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) changes.
The government revealed on August 2, just days before the election was called, changes to the prices of medicines which will see 30 cents sliced from each script dispensed under the PBS.
This could see free or very low-cost services disappear including delivery and dose administration packs, which are important services for the aged, the chronically ill and people with disabilities, mother and infant services, bowel cancer screening, blood pressure testing and wound management support.
Dennis Ham, owner of the Amcal chemist at Warrnambool’s Gateway Plaza, said pharmacies across the region faced an average $30,000 blow to their profits under the latest changes.
His pharmacy employs 22 people, but at least one job was at risk, Mr Ham said.
“The government put forward a mini budget in which they found ways to get back some of the money that they have obviously overspent and one of the things they put in was that they were going to take $854 million out of the budget for pharmacists dispensing pharmaceutical benefits medications,” Mr Ham said.
“They’d already cut us back by quite a considerable amount and they promised no further cuts would be done without further consultation.
“So the amount involved to an average pharmacy is $30,000 a year off their profits.
“And what’s going to happen with that is quite simply some of the services from pharmacies that are now free or very low price will have to be reconsidered — things like delivery, dose administration aids and obviously staffing will be another one.”
Mr Ham said the community’s response to the petition was strong but more signatures were need before it was handed to the government at the end of next week.
“We’ve already taken more than 1500 names on our petition,’’ he said.
Brad Coleman, who co-owns chemists shops across regional Victoria including Healthwise Monaghan’s Pharmacy and Priceline, both in Warrnambool, said the cost of the changes was high.
“There will definitely be a reduction in the profitability,” Mr Coleman said.
“One issue with it is that these price reductions were planned out through the negotiations of the Community Pharmacy Agreement and now that the goal posts have changed it has accelerated more and that’s making things very difficult — there’s not much time to plan for this.’’
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia said mother and infant services, bowel cancer screening, blood pressure testing and wound management support could be lost.
Guild national president Kos Sclavos said the change would leave each community pharmacy $90,000 out of pocket in 2014-15, when added to existing price change arrangements.
“Whereas previous changes were made in consultation with pharmacists, this time the industry has been blindsided and individual pharmacies will have no choice but to make difficult decisions on jobs, patient services, opening hours and even whether they can stay open at all,” he said.
Twelve months ago, under the Community Pharmacy Agreement, the government cut 60 cents from each script dispensed.
Australiawide the petition has 500,000 signatures.
It will be lodged with the House of Representatives when Parliament resumes.