Hindmarsh fears pharmaceutical benefits scheme effect on regional pharmacies

A WIMMERA council is concerned changes to the Federal Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme will endanger regional pharmacies.

From April 1, the Federal Government reduced prices for some medicines involved in the scheme.

The changes affect pharmacy revenue.

Hindmarsh Shire Council wrote to Health Minister Peter Dutton and Member for Mallee Andrew Broad, concerned regional pharmacies would struggle to survive the changes.

“The changes will decrease the profit per script for dispensing pharmacists, which places tremendous pressure on pharmacies in our region,” chief executive Tony Doyle told the minister.

Hindmarsh pharmacy owners already had to contend with the challenges of remaining financially viable in one of the lowest population density areas of Victoria. 

“These most recent changes are some of the most dramatic the community has seen, and will threaten the ability of our towns to have a pharmacy service at all,” Mr Doyle said.

“Pharmacists play a vital role in the delivery of medical services, educating patients about their medications, checking for adverse reactions and checking for interactions between medications.

“These are serious threats to the health and safety of our community.”

He called on politicians to protect the viability of small community pharmacies.

Mr Broad shared council’s concerns, and raised the issue in the Coalition party room.

He also wrote to Mr Dutton.

“Many of these pharmacies are providing a level of primary health advice, and the dispensing of scripts that have a level of government subsidies within the sale price has allowed them to continue this public good,” Mr Broad told the minister.

“I take comfort in your verbal assurances that you are mindful of the importance of country pharmacies, and that you will seek to make allowances for their important contribution to rural communities in any ongoing negotiations with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.”

Nhill Pharmacy relieving pharmacist Adam Remboulis said the changes would make a massive difference to pharmacy profit margins.

“We are looking at least a 12.5 per cent depreciation on whatever the dispensary stock is at the time,” he said.

For some pharmacies, he said a $10,000 loss might be optimistic.

“We just have to grin and bear it,” he said.

The Pharmacy Guild expects more than 2100 jobs in Victorian pharmacies will be lost in the next 12 months because of the cuts.

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