Pharmacies will be handed $1.26 billion for delivering healthcare services. Good for them. But meanwhile the government is not prepared to increase the Medicare rebates patients receive when they see a doctor.
As a result of the new health policies, visits to the doctor will become more expensive in the years to come, whereas pharmacies will be paid more to deal with health problems. With this move Health Minister Susan Ley seems to make a clear statement: Don’t go to your doctor, see the pharmacist instead.
A vague agreement
It could be me but I’m not entirely sure what the Health Minister will sign off on – it’s all still a bit vague:
The Pharmacy Guild says on its website: “The Government has committed to $50 million over the Agreement for a Pharmacy Trial Program to trial new and expanded community pharmacy programs which seek to improve clinical outcomes for consumers and extend the role of pharmacists in the delivery of healthcare services through community pharmacy.”
National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Grant Kardachi says: “PSA particularly welcomes the doubling in this agreement to $1.26 billion of funding for the provision of patient-focussed professional services.”
According to Australian Doctor magazine, “some $600 million will be spent on ‘new and expanded’ services, but there is no detail on what services this will cover.”
One thing is certain: Pharmacies are going to deliver more healthcare services – and at the same time the freeze on indexation of the Medicare rebates comes at a cost for patients.
Here are some of the questions I have:
- Is Minister Ley’s decision helping to improve teamwork within primary care, or is it creating more confusion and frustration for patients and their doctors?
- Can pharmacists and their assistants offer the same quality healthcare as doctors and practice nurses?
- Can the person who is selling the drugs give independent health advice?
- Why not spend part of the money on increasing the rebate patients get back from Medicare after visiting their doctor?
- Why not spend part of the money on improving access to practice nurses and GPs?
- Does this mean that doctors will miss opportunities to pick up on health problems, because patients will see the pharmacy assistant instead?
- When the Pharmacy Guild talks about ‘evidence-based’ services, what do they mean? (given the fact that all community pharmacies happily advise customers to buy their unproven remedies and products).
What do you think, is this good policy or not?