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Hamilton speaks out against pharmacy changes

In parliament last week, Member for Groom Garth Hamilton voiced his concern that changes implemented by the Federal Government to do with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will hurt pharmacies in regional areas.

From September, consumers will be able to purchase two months’ supply, rather than the current one-month supply, of more than 300 medicines.

Mr Hamilton said the direct impact of this policy will be to reduce the viability of small regional local pharmacies, in some cases to the point of closure.

“Having spoken at length to several pharmacists in my electorate, my greatest concern is for residents of small communities like Goombungee, Kingsthorpe, Cambooya and Westbrook,” Mr Hamilton said.

“The small local pharmacies in these towns simply are not large enough to sustain significant changes to their business model.

“Nathan Jarvis, the owner of the Oakey Pharmacy, told me that the impact of this change would be a direct bottom-line cost of $283,000.

“Not only would this change impact the service he is able to provide to his community, including free deliveries and cheap provision of Webster-paks, it reduces his ability to support the local sports clubs and community organisations in the town of Oakey.”

“This family-run business plays a crucial role in its community, and the impacts of this decision will be broadly felt.”

Mr Hamilton said there was a complete lack of consultation with regional pharmacists prior to announcing the policy.

“I do doubt that the government has fully understood the consequences of its actions.

“Small country towns are doing it tough right now, and this government must not make a bad situation worse by rushing through this ill-considered policy.

“I implore the minister (Mark Butler) to go out and listen to those regional pharmacists and understand the consequences of this policy.”

Also in parliament, Health Minister Mark Butler said every dollar saved by this measure will be reinvested into pharmacy.

“We are talking with all groups in the pharmacy sector, including the Pharmacy Guild, about the best way to make that investment, including, in particular, the impact on rural pharmacies,” Minister Butler said.

Managing Pharmacist Andrew Lord of Mary’s Family Pharmacy in Middle Ridge said the change in legislation for medication supply will have many adverse affects on his business and its customers.

“Stock control will become more difficult, resulting in some patients getting two months’ supply and some missing out,” Mr Lord said.

“It will have an effect on our bottom line, which will affect our ability to do deliveries, blood pressure checks and vaccinations.”

Mr Lord said although the change is good news for some customers, the majority of customers that have spoken to him about the change expressed concern.

“It looks good on the surface but is being done in a way that will impact the pharmacy itself.”

He said there had been zero consultation from the government.

The Australian Government estimates that the change from a 30-day supply to a 60-day supply will save up to $180 a year, per medicine for general patients and up to $43.80 a year, per medicine for concession card holders.

The change to 60-day dispensing will also halve the number of visits needed to GPs to get prescriptions filled.

The change has received support from bodies including the Heart Foundation, Diabetes Australia, Arthritis Australia and the Breast Cancer Network, while it has received intense opposition from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

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