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Government confirms cuts to pharmacies

Young female pharmacist in pharmacy clinic

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says the decision by the Albanese Government to bring forward the eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement (CPA) is an admission of the damage its 60-day dispensing policy and its associated funding cuts are already inflicting on patient services, aged care residents and pharmacies.

While welcoming the move the Guild says the logical next step is to postpone the introduction of 60-day dispensing to align with a new CPA, saving patients from the impacts of 60-day dispensing.

Health Minister Mark Butler today conceded the damage of his policy, bringing forward negotiations by one year: “I’ve taken the view and I’ve heard the soundings from the Pharmacy Guild that we need to deliver that business certainty to pharmacies sooner than that.” (doorstop 7.8.23)

Pharmacy Guild Vice-President Anthony Tassone says it would be a giant policy failure to wait until next June to finalise the new agreement while introducing 60-day dispensing cuts in the meantime.

“If the government doesn’t hit pause on the policy, it will cause further pain and damage to patients, aged care residents and pharmacies, right up until next June,” Mr Tassone said.

“All pharmacists want cheaper medicine for their patients, and we believe that can be achieved without losing jobs, pharmacies closing or ending free patient services.”

“We want to work with the Government to uphold their pre-election commitment which guaranteed support for pharmacies and cheaper medicine.”

“Labor also looks forward to working with the Guild to ensure the implementation of the current community pharmacy agreement includes reforms that do not negatively impact on either the viability of community pharmacies or patient’s access to community services.” (Mark Butler letter 12.05.22)

He also said the decision to bring forward CPA negotiations makes a mockery of the Health Minister’s claims that the Guild’s public awareness campaign is a scare campaign.

“The Government has decided to bring forward negotiations for a new agreement by a one year, acknowledging they have got the implementation of 60-days completely wrong, and we need a new agreement before it is brought in.”

The Guild points to closure of Montville Pharmacy on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and the decision by pharmacists all around the country to cut staff, cut trading hours and start charging for previously free services as proof that 60-day dispensing funding cuts are wrecking community pharmacies.

Mr Tassone says any new agreement must address the 60-day dispensing funding cuts.

“Given the impact of 60-day dispensing on patients and community pharmacies across the nation, the eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement must retore funding cuts broken in the seventh CPA.”

“We have always been willing to negotiate and even suggested alternatives to further bring down the cost of medicines without causing damage to the local pharmacies.

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