Pharmacy funding not a big enough step

*Speech delivered on 31st July 2023.

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To quote Health Minister Mark Butler:

“Pharmacies hold a special place in rural and regional Australia, as a critical part of the fabric of a community…”

End quote.

And I agree - pharmacies are vital for health services in regional communities. We rely on pharmacies when we can’t get into the doctor, or on weekends when everything else is shut.

So why won’t the Government compromise on a policy that could see pharmacies closing their doors? 

The Health Minister announced funding on Friday to help regional and rural communities adjust to the Government’s plan for 60-day prescribing.

The funding was a step in the right direction. But it’s just not a big enough step.

It means pharmacies in Hobart and Launceston might be $110,000 in the red now, rather than $160,000.

That’s still a closure notice on the door.

That still means staff cuts, reduced services and reduced hours.

This isn’t pharmacists being dramatic or running a scare-campaign.

It’s the reality facing people with kids to feed and mortgages to pay. People who work hard at their jobs and just want to continue helping people.

This funding announcement isn’t new money.

It’s part of the $1.2 billion the Government says it’s investing back into community pharmacies. And when pharmacies say the total cost of this policy is actually $3.5 billion, you can see that it’s not adding up.

People need cheaper medications. I don’t disagree with that. But we need a plan that saves people money and saves jobs in healthcare at the same time.

This policy comes into play on September 1st. Four weeks away.

Time’s running out for the Government to get this right.

The Health Minister was right to say that pharmacies are critical to our communities. But it’s not just enough to say it.

The Government needs to put their money where their mouth is and ensure these pharmacies aren’t worse off.

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