Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist February 2014 Contents Australian Pharmacist February 2014 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
The Federal Budget will be brought down in the second week of May and
we all know it is going to be a horror, not just for health but for all sectors
of the economy.
With a new Government and an edgy
economy, the signs are all there for a
budget which is going to hurt. It came
as no surprise therefore to see Christmas
dominated by the floating of an idea to
impose a $6 co‐payment for all visits to
the GP, and possibly even for visits to
emergency departments of hospitals.
It is an old ploy of Governments to
float budget ideas which have the
potential to be politically and electorally
damaging, and while this Government
may be new, it is well versed in the
strategy. However, in the case of the
co‐payment it added its own finesse.
This was achieved by the concept of
a co‐payment not actually being one
raised by the Government, but rather
by an outside think tank, the Australian
Centre for Health Research. The fact
that the centre’s Terry Barnes, a former
health adviser to Tony Abbot in a past
life was its author was touted as being
Terry Barnes made the suggestion in
a submission to the Commission of
Audit and it quickly became public
knowledge, drawing widespread debate
from health, economic and political
academics and experts. The timing,
you would have to say, was brilliant
in that the release of the submission
gained maximum media exposure at
a time of minimum media readership
and viewing – and at a time when
many Australians are in ‘holiday mode’.
The submission drew lots of comment
but many Australians would probably
still be blissfully unaware of it.
The end result is that if the Government
decides to introduce a co‐payment,
it can say the issue has been widely
debated. If it decides to reject the
concept it can quite legitimately say
it wasn’t its idea in the first place –
the submission came from a respected
research institution. A win‐win situation
– or so it would seem!
The fact that over the holiday break
the Government did not rule out such
a co‐payment sends the signal that the
Government is serious about performing
some major surgery in the budget and
Health Minister Peter Dutton has the
unenviable task of trying to weigh the
plethora of righteous claims for funds
against the need to have a sustainable
I am always surprised that when
looking at the overall health system,
governments of all persuasions often
overlook the obvious when seeking
solutions. The obvious I am referring to
is the role of pharmacists, or more to
the point, the greater role pharmacists
can play in providing health services
to patients and helping to rein in the
budget by cutting unnecessary visits to
GPs and hospital stays.
Australia lags the rest of the world in
making full use of pharmacists’ abilities,
but there is no reason for this situation.
Claims of turf wars between doctors and
pharmacists have long been exposed
as the nonsense they are and in fact the
two professions are closer now than ever
– with PSA and the main doctors’ groups
working collaboratively in key areas.
We all know that pharmacists are
the most accessible of all health
professionals and are trained and
equipped to deal with a wide range of
minor ailments which currently are often
unnecessarily undertaken by doctors.
We also know that pharmacists can treat
these patients safely and efficiently,
while always being aware that if in any
doubt the patient must be referred to
the GP or other specialists.
We also are second only to nurses as the
most‐trusted health professionals and I
think this indicates there is little doubt
there would be wide public acceptance
and uptake of these services provided
by pharmacists. We have the workforce
– all 25,000 of you – with an average
age of 33 years. The average age of a
registered nurse in Australia is 55 years.
We’re ready – and waiting.
As a profession pharmacy is ready to
provide solutions to the Government’s
dilemma of cutting budgets while
maintaining health services to the
community. Let’s do it.
up for horror
» CANBERRA COMMENTARY
BY LIESEL WETT, PSA CEO
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