Campaign aims to give a fair go to community pharmacies
THE Federal MP with the most one-pharmacy towns in Queensland has backed a campaign to stop the "vital and integral" services leaving the bush.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia fears one-pharmacy towns in Queensland's rural areas could be forced to close their doors if they are left $90,000 out of pocket next financial year under unexpected changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The community pharmacy watchdog believes the other alternative is slashing important services for the elderly, children or chronically ill.
National president Kos Sclavos said the guild predicted the PBS changes might lead to job losses and cuts to aged care and home delivery services, mother and infant services, bowel cancer screening, blood pressure testing and wound management support.
He called on Federal Maranoa MP Bruce Scott to join a campaign to get a fair go for community pharmacies.
Mr Scott told APN he, too, was concerned about the future of pharmacies in his electorate.
"For the 24 towns in Maranoa with only one pharmacy, and the surrounding communities they service, this would be devastating and potentially life-threatening for patients," Mr Sclavos said.
"Country pharmacists - like everyone in the healthcare industry - want patients and consumers to be able to access essential medicines at an affordable price.
"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."
The August 2 Economic Statement revealed unilateral changes to medicine pricing under the PBS without any consultation and, the guild says, in breach of the five-year Community Pharmacy Agreement.
Mr Scott said his rural communities could not afford to lose their pharmacies and he had already raised the issue with his Federal Coalition colleagues.
He said that as a former veteran affairs minister he made sure pharmacies were the third leg of the healthcare solution next to doctors and hospitals.
"To cut them out of the equation to find some possible savings will impact on the viability of many of my small country pharmacies," he said.
"A pharmacist is such an integral part of the health and wellbeing of people in our country communities.
"We cannot do without them and we shouldn't cut them short."
A Federal Labor campaign spokeswoman said the Rudd government was speeding up price disclosure so the prices of off-patent medicines dropped sooner and more often.
She said this meant patients paid less for some medicines and enable the government to list the newest drugs on the PBS.
"If the cost of medicines for pharmacists is dropping, then it makes sense that the price the government pays for these medicines should drop too - that's fair, and it's what taxpayers expect," she said.
One-pharmacy towns in Maranoa are Mungindi, Allora, Alpha, Ballandean, Barcaldine, Blackall, Charleville, Crows Nest, Clifton, Cunnamulla, Dalby, Jandowae, Miles, Millmerran, Quilpie, St George, Surat, Tara, Texas, Wallumbilla, Wandoan, Winton and Yarraman.