Pharmacists rage outside parliament

About 2000 community pharmacists concerned by Labor’s 60-day dispensing policy protested outside Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

About 2000 community pharmacists concerned by the 60-day dispensing policy now in effect have descended on the front lawns of Parliament House to make their displeasure known.

One of the Albanese government’s cornerstone cost-of-living measures, millions of Australians with chronic illness are now able to access 60 days worth of medicine at a time for certain prescriptions at the same cost as 30-day scripts.

The policy has been met with concern by the Opposition and pharmacists alike, who say it will lead to closures and job losses.

The Pharmacy Guild suspended its campaign targeting the reforms last week in exchange for early negations of the eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement.

But the Community and Pharmacy Support Group, a self-described “independent group” of pharmacists, interns, dispensary techs and pharmacy assistants made no such promise, and voiced their concerns in Canberra on Monday.

In the lead up, the group said it would be a “historic rally”.

Community pharmacists from across Australia gathered outside Parliament House on Monday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
The opposition’s health spokesperson Anne Ruston addressed the rally. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
The group is separate to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Speaking at the event, Nationals Leader David Littleproud said he wanted cheaper medicines for all, but his biggest concern with 60-day dispensing was the risk it posed to the “viability of healthcare” for Australians living in regional, rural, and remote parts of the country.

“Over 400 pharmacies are the last line of primary healthcare defence for us. And this mob wants to rip it away from us where our government, long after the AMA and their friends left us, and we’ve got no doctors. It is the pharmacists that stuck with us. It’s the pharmacists that have stuck in regional and rural Australia,” he said.

“They believe in their communities and have delivered to their community in the good and the bad. It’s for that reason the Nationals are with you every step of the way.

“Make no mistake, you are not asking for something special. You are asking for a fair go. Our model is our fair go … We want cheaper medicines. And we all want cheaper medicines. “There’s a better way to do it. And listening to you and giving you a seat at the table is a way to do that.”

The pharmacists are concerned about job losses and closures. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Their rally took place on the first sitting day of the fortnight. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

As the new policy came into effect on September 1, Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey welcomed the agreement with the federal government to ensure the eighth CPA was ready to commence on March 1 next year.

“Pharmacists are ready, willing and able to step up and provide more care and services to patients, at a time when the health system is under significant strain, and we look forward to those opportunities within the 8th Community Pharmacy Agreement,” he said.

“We must ensure the core clinical service of community pharmacies, the dispensing of prescription medicines, is remunerated appropriately to help ensure these opportunities for a greater role of community pharmacists in delivery of patient care are realised.”

The guild is not affiliated with the CPSG who organised Monday’s protest.