Thursday, May 18, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Massive Cuts To Regional Pharmacies

Regional pharmacies are feeling the brunt of budget cuts with the new 60-day prescription policy set to halve their annual dispensing fee, with one local pharmacist saying this will cost his business $250,000 per year.

Previously the dispensing fee of $7.82 was paid to a pharmacy per month per patient.

The new 60-day dispensing will mean this fee is paid every two months resulting in a saving of $46.92 per year, per patient.

This saving, however, comes directly out of the pockets of pharmacies and many fear this will result in a reduction of services, opening hours and even potentially leading to the closure of some stores.

Lee McLennan from Live Life Pharmacy in Cannonvale said the fees had previously helped keep his store open seven days a week and covered staff overheads.

He is worried he will now have to reduce both.

“It’s been very stressful, especially as it’s just been announced overnight with no warning,” he said.

“The policy is all about taking money away from pharmacy.”

Leader of the National Party David Littleproud MP and Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox, met with Mr McLennan to discuss the impacts.

“What I’m concerned about is people’s jobs and also places like Calen where the pharmacy is the only place for people to get primary healthcare,” said Mr Willcox.

“If you are going to impact someone’s business then you have to take a look at some sort of offset so they can continue to provide good health care services.”

Both politicians voiced concerns that regional areas will be the ones to suffer the most.

“Unfortunately, this policy will have unintended consequences for those people who live outside capital cities,” said Mr Littleproud.

“It’s about supply and lack of supply - if you’re at the end of the supply chain, the further you are away.”

Mr McLennan says that he fears some patients will go without medications as they are “already dealing with a lot of medicine shortages”.

“Rather than having enough to supply three patients we will have enough to supply one,” he said.

The bulk-buying of meds could also lead to surplus and waste in some households where individuals regularly swap and change medicines.

“You can’t take the other tablets back, so you’re actually getting more waste,” said Mr Willcox.

Other issues with the policy include patients with chronic illnesses having to purchase double the amount of medication in order to reach the ‘safety net’ of 36 scripts per year.

Once they have reached this threshold, they receive free prescriptions.

“I think the government needs to rethink this policy and have a conversation with the Pharmacy Guild and look at other ways of providing cheaper medicines and better services for people,” said Mr Willcox.

Lee McLennan from Live Life Pharmacy, Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox and Leader of the National Party David Littleproud MP. Photo credit: Bronte Hodge

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