Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist February 2014 Contents Australian Pharmacist February 2014 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 39
Unlike many overseas jurisdictions
where drug impaired pharmacists
often have a range of facilities
available to turn to for help,
Australia has only one private
service committed to providing
Medical practitioners, on the other hand,
have established dedicated services in all
states aimed at helping doctors in need.
The Pharmacists' Support Service* provides
a range of services for pharmacists and the
fact that it stands alone in offering such
assistance is a moot point in the profession.
PSA Program Coordinator Kay Dunkley
believes the service, which recently
expanded from a Victoria-only operation to
other states, needs greater support from the
profession and authorities.
'In particular PSS needs a secure source of
funding which will enable us to be proactive
and to enable early intervention and
prevention. In addition PSS would like to
develop formal links to drug and alcohol and
mental health treatment services for easy
'We have to help those in the profession
who need help but we can't do that if
the profession as a whole is disengaged,'
'There is an argument that a generalist
approach for all impaired health
professionals might be the route to go down
but I am not sure that would work. There
is a lot of benefit in peer support and for
a pharmacist to be able to talk to another
pharmacist who understands their situation,
especially in the first instance when they are
reaching out for help.
'There could be a case for treating health
professionals as a group but certainly
doctors, nurses and pharmacists need
to have a different treatment pathway
as they are the ones who have access to
'Most other health professionals are not at
the same risk as they don't have that access
The Victorian Doctors Health Program
was set up following recognition of the
shortcomings in health services to the
medical profession, and in particular
assistance to doctors and medical students
who had health problems that were
causing, or likely to cause impairment.
Medical Director Dr Kym Jenkins says
the service has educational and clinical
programs and in the clinical area acts as a
triage services for doctors seeking help.
'We don't find that people who come to
us for help generally; are those who have
found themselves in trouble but we find
they have often had a lot of conversations
with themselves and recognise that they
need help and so we can be the first point
of call,' Dr Jenkins aid.
'We find that many of those who come to
us are those who have seen the light before
they felt the heat (of the Australian Health
Practitioner Regulation Agency, AHPRA, and
'They recognise they need help and
so we triage them and help to find the
appropriate and relevant help.'
Dr Jenkins said providing assistance to
health professions required specialist
skills sets because the health professional
patient came with knowledge of
medications and health conditions.
'They are not your usual patient and this
needs to be factored in to the way health
professionals are cared for,' she said.
Pharmacy Board Chair, Stephen Marty
acknowledged the need for support
and said AHPRA was working through
'The doctors have the Doctors Health
Advisory Service and the nurses are looking
at this,' he said.
'Pharmacists have the PSS which is
independently funded and they have
sought assistance from the Pharmacy
Board in the past and I expect them to do
'The debate raises the issue of whether
the profession needs to put funds aside to
support such a service and do these funds
come from registration fees.
'This is always a question and also the
quantum as it is getting more and more
expensive to treat these people.
'By and large affected pharmacists pay
for treatment themselves but this is
expensive and I have heard the average
cost of treatment is in the order of
$12,000 a person. This is a disincentive for
Dr Betty Chaar, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy
Practice and Professional Ethics at the
University of Sydney, says the profession
has not invested in looking after its own.
'We as a profession have nothing except for
the PSS,' she said.
'We have not invested as profession.
This problem exists and we have to
acknowledge it and help people who are
sick or who have been in a dark spot or who
have been traumatised.
'I don't think PSS is enough. We need a
program in place.'
Dr Chaar said there was an argument for
a levy on registration fees to support such
a service, and she would like to see such
action elevated to the AHPRA level.
'I also argue that things like the PSA Ethics
Advisory Service helps theoretically but as
long as PSA membership is not compulsory
this will not be comprehensive.
'We need the whole profession in PSA,
which I think should be the case, and that
would be very helpful because you could
set up a very good support program.
'At the moment if you set it up and you
had impaired pharmacists that didn't want
to seek help they simply would not be a
'The ones who are not members are more
likely to be the ones who offend.'
The Pharmacists' Support Service can be
contacted on 1300 244 910 or at: www.
Support services for pharmacists
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