The Albanese Labor Government must pause its 60 day pharmacy dispensing rollout because of the adverse impact on regional people, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health Anne Webster says.
A nationwide survey conducted by the Pharmacy Guild has revealed almost one in four of the 1000 community pharmacies surveyed have reduced opening hours and 54 per cent have increased fees for services.
“From its inception this was a bad policy for people who heavily rely on their local pharmacy to access medical care and medications,” Dr Webster said.
“In the regions, if a pharmacy is forced to close or reduce hours the next option is not a suburb away – it could be a 100km or away. The Government needs to take time to refine the policy to ensure no rural and regional pharmacies and their communities will be adversely affected.”
This comes as it was revealed Aged Care residents could be slugged more than $800 per year for their weekly Webster-pak medicines as a result of the changes.
“These medicines are currently individually portioned and delivered to 188,000 of our vulnerable elderly Australians every week by pharmacies free of charge to aged care residences,” Dr Webster said. “However if pharmacies can no longer provide this service for free, sadly it will be the elderly who will have to pay.
“It is simply not possible for the stretched nursing workforce in aged care to sort medications – nurses have told me they simply won’t have the time to do that and safely carry out their other duties.”
Dr Webster said while cheaper medicine was a great headline for Labor, it once again was policy on the run that failed to account for unintended consequences.
“Regional people and their pharmacies are united in their concern over the material effects these 60 day dispensing changes will have,” Dr Webster said.
“The Government needs to ensure no one will be worse off under the new system.”