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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : February 2005
guild HE Pharmacy Guild will com- mence negotiation of the Fourth Community Pharmacy Agreement this month. The Guild negotiation team, which will initially be made up of about a half dozen elected officials and National Secretariat staff, will join senior government bureau- crats (mainly from the Department of Health and Ageing) in establishing the foundation for the next five years of our profession. Third Agreement negotiations started about six months earlier than this, so we are anticipating a very intense exercise, conducted over a relatively short period of time. In fact, we only have about three months to sort out the major elements of the Agreement so that they are finalised before the release of the Federal Budget on 10 May. The main reason for this condensed timetable was last October’s Federal Elec- tion, which made earlier negotiations impossible. The Guild was encouraged by the com- ments of Prime Minister John Howard, expressed in a letter to Australian phar- macists prior to the election. The Government appreciates the chal- lenge that our ageing population and increasing healthcare technology costs will bring, especially with regard to imposts on national budgets. The Guild believes meeting this chal- lenge will require the Government and health professions to determine the most efficient way to use the increasingly scarce human and financial resources in health- care. Other issues include how to achieve least-cost service delivery in aspects of healthcare that might be less attractive (from a business perspective), how to manage a growing demand for chronic care, and how to establish a healthy work- force platform that will ensure that par- ticipation and productivity are maximised as the population ages. We believe that community pharmacy from the president Pharmacy Guild of Australia president John Bronger Let the negotiations begin T is able to do a lot more to help in meeting these challenges and think that the Fourth Agreement should be about harnessing the unique characteristics of pharmacy to create economically efficient and med- ically effective solutions. Broadly, the Guild will focus on three key issues during the Fourth Agreement negotiations. First, we will seek fair and adequate remuneration for the work that commu- nity pharmacists do in dispensing PBS medicines. The axiom ‘what gets rewarded is what gets done’ is a behavioural fact that tran- scends politics. Pharmacy, like other health professions, is suffering increasing skill shortages. For community pharmacy to deliver low transaction-cost and effi- cient services, the reward (from both ser- vices and retailing) has to be adequate to justify maintenance of a retail presence. ...to deliver low transaction-cost and efficient services, the reward...has to be adequate to justify maintenance of a retail presence Pharmacists want to be respected as health professionals, but this will only carry them so far in their decision mak- ing. They also have to have viable busi- nesses. Community pharmacies have suffered erosion in their gross margin percentages for PBS dispensing, while costs have actu- ally increased. Meanwhile, the pharmacy workforce shortage has seen wages increase substantially. These are by no 78 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.86 FEBRUARY 2005 means the only increases in the cost bur- den for our members, either. While the cost of the PBS has continued to increase, pharmacists’ share of total spending on the Scheme has steadily fallen. With the continuation and extension of current initiatives, as well as the introduc- tion of new cost-effective programs and services, the Guild anticipates further PBS savings. No small part of this is the role pharmacists play in administering the Government’s entitlement checking ini- tiatives. We therefore need to strike a remuneration structure that will ensure that pharmacists are able to, and are moti- vated to, continue to deliver health ser- vices that can help control the total cost of healthcare. The second issue is the continuation and possible expansion of the range of value-added professional services that were first funded under the Third Agree- ment. These initiatives include medica- tion reviews, the Medicines Information for Consumers Program and the Quality Care Pharmacy Program (QCPP). These and other programs, as well as the research and development funding that drives them in the first instance, are essen- tial in realising the maximum value com- munity pharmacy can provide to the Aus- tralian public. Finally, the Guild will campaign for the maintenance of pharmacy location rules and the removal of any anomalies in the system. We believe that any substantial relaxation of the location rules will result in a serious reduction in the capacity of community pharmacy to deliver what will be required of it in the future. The Guild feels strongly that it is in the community’s interest, and that of the Government in managing the total cost of healthcare, to maintain the present system. All signs are that the negotiations will be tough. However, we have a well-pre- pared negotiating team and a convincing package to present to the Government. ¦