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RURAL PHARMACY SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
Rural programs out of step
with government rural health
By Lindy Swain
Lindy Swain is PSA's Director of Rural
Policy. She is based at Lismore, NSW.
On 1 July signi cant changes were made
to the PhARIA classi cation system and
pharmacy rural program allowances which
at the time of writing had yet to be publicly
announced. The changes to the PhARIA
system have resulted in many rural towns
which were previously classi ed as PhARIA
2 now being classi ed as PhARIA 1. As all
the rural allowances now exclude PhARIA
1 towns, many pharmacists, students and
interns will be a ected by these changes.
Towns like Casino, Dubbo, Grafton,
Mullumbimby, Burnie, Mount Gambier, and
Barnduda, are now all classi ed as PhARIA
1 and thus treated exactly like Sydney,
Melbourne and Brisbane.
What implications will this have for
regional CPD and the future rural
Despite the exponential growth of
pharmacy schools and graduates over
the last 10 years, regional, rural and
remote areas of Australia continue to
experience shortages of pharmacists
and pharmacy services. Like all health
professions there is an inequity of health
Health outcomes for people living outside
urban centres continue to be consistently
worse than for their city counterparts.
Population health outcomes and chronic
disease burden worsen with degrees of
remoteness. These problems are likely to
increase, especially considering that the
rate of population ageing is faster in rural
areas, with consequent higher demand
on health services.1 There is a large unmet
need for more pharmacists in regional, rural
and remote areas.
There is evidence that when students
undertake training or a placement in
rural and remote areas it increases the
likelihood of recruitment in these areas.
However, recent changes to rural pharmacy
programs are highly likely to result in
fewer students having rural placements.
Pharmacy students will now only be able to
claim travel and accommodation expenses
when they undertake placements in
PhARIA 2--6. Pharmacy students are unable
to earn income whilst on rural placement,
yet often still have overhead expenses in
their place of residence, so unless they can
claim travel and accommodation expenses
rural placements for many are not possible.
There are not enough pharmacy preceptors
in PhARIA 2--6 to enable many students
to have a subsidised rural experience.
The remote pharmacists who do take
students are about to be overloaded.
A number of pharmacy faculties are
considering axing their rural placement
programs as they believe it will be just too
di cult to nd enough appropriate rural
Many students comment that before
undertaking a rural placement they
would not have considered 'working rural'.
However, after a positive rural experience
many feel that a rural career may be a 'good
option'. Do we not want to expose as many
students as possible to rural practice to
ensure that we have a rural workforce for
Urban hospital pharmacy preceptors are
at maximum capacity. Many pharmacy
students travel to regional centres such
as Tamworth, Lismore, Launceston,
Geraldton and Warrnambool to gain a
hospital pharmacy placement. Now, unable
to claim expenses for such experiences,
many students are unlikely to ever have a
Pharmacy interns and their preceptors
will also be a ected by changes to the
rural pharmacy allowances. Any pharmacy
intern working or residing in a PhARIA 1
rural town will be unable to claim expenses
to travel to CPD events, their intern
training workshops or exams, making
rural pharmacy an expensive option.
Many regional pharmacies will be unable
to claim the intern incentive allowance.
This incentive allowance is often used by
regional pharmacists to increase intern
wages or subsidise intern housing, to
attract an intern to their town. Without
the allowance pharmacists may be out of
pocket or without an intern.
Pharmacists residing in rural and regional
areas classi ed as PhARIA 1 are unable
to claim travel allowances to travel to
CPD events. Similarly, companies and
organisations will not be able to claim
allowances for trainers to travel to these
regions. With the recent changes to the
PhARIA classi cation system this will a ect
many more pharmacists than prior to
In summary, the recent changes to the
rural pharmacy programs are highly
likely to reduce the number of pharmacy
students who have a rural experience,
reduce the number of interns who work
rurally, and reduce the number of regional
CPD events, thus negatively impacting
our future rural pharmacy workforce. In
all other health professions more not less
money is being spent on rural students and
health professionals. The Department of
Health and Ageing workforce programs are
investing heavily in Australia's future rural
health workforce. So why is pharmacy out
More information about the rural pharmacy
allowances can be found at: www.
ruralpharmacy.com.au. If you would like
to voice your concerns about the changes
to the rural pharmacy programs please
contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and
I will ensure that your concerns are raised
with the Department of Health and Ageing
and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
If you want to check your 2012--2013
PhARIA classi cation go to: www.adelaide.
Health Workforce Australia. Rural and Remote
Health Workforce Innovation and Reform
Strategy, Draft Background Paper. Aug 2011. At:
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