Editor's Note: For over eight years, i2P has been writing about poor pharmacy leadership issues that have resulted from executive decisions, mostly emanating from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
It is as if the whole embodiment of pharmacy in Australia is a "bricks and mortar" building with pharmacists inside focusing on selling medicines and doing work that is uninteresting and unattractive, (except for a few adventurous souls who have made their own way and have carved their own image).
Where is the intereresting work backed by skilled pharmacist professionals?
And why must any independent professional service be tied to a pharmacy?
i2P was absolutely delighted when Charlie Benrimoj "burst into flames" recently, when he delivered the Neil Naismith Commemorative Lecture in Melbourne early in February, as reported below in Pharmacy News
Charlie Benrimoj struck a nerve when he made his comments, and being a high profile member of the pharmacy profession, succeeded in getting his message across.
PGA reaction to the Benrimoj lecture was swift and aggressive, forcing a range of apologies later, and a clarification by Charlie regarding the second part of his paper i.e. professional services should still be delivered through pharmacies
The underlying structure of pharmacy is a totally unbalanced one, without even a hint of a democratic process.
Once, pharmacy owners treated non pharmacy owners as colleagues and valued health professionals.
Now under PGA influence they are treated as employees to be paid at the lowest possible level.
One comment by a PGA member left me dumbfounded when he stated recently in a well known bulletin board, that he was looking forward to the year 2013 when new pharmacists are anticipated to be in surplus, and that the hourly rate of pay could be substantially reduced.
What about the idea of co-development of clinical services for a fee so they can pay space rental and earn income independently?
Non-pharmacy owners represent 65% of the pharmacist population.
Democratically they deserve a voice and Charlie Benrimoj just gave them one.
Thanks, Charlie, for having the guts to say what many are thinking.
Maybe they will all now get behind you and add to the roar of disapproval against the current situation.
'Give PSA a say: Benrimoj
Pharmacy academic Professor Charlie Benrimoj has called for an end to the Guild's dominance in agreement negotiations. Speaking at the Neil Naismith Commemorative Lecture in Melbourne last week, Prof Benrimoj said it was "unacceptable" that the Guild continued to drive the future of the profession through its lead role in negotiations and called for greater collaboration.
"If you accept that the community pharmacy agreements are now driving not only the financial future of the profession but the professional future of the profession then it seems incongruous to me that one organisation, who is essentially a membership of owners, should be driving negotiations," said Prof Benrimoj. "There needs to be greater involvement of the rest of the profession in the agreement because it’s their professional future."
Prof Benrimoj said the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) should have equal representation on agreement committees. While this representation has increased over the life of the agreements, Prof Benrimoj said it was still inadequate and meant the Society had only a limited impact on policy and strategy.
"It's not still a position of equity. You only have to look at the number of representatives of each of those organisations. All of the structures are weighted towards the owners' association. What has happened as a consequence of that is that there is much more emphasis on the economic development than the professional development and that’s bad," he said.
Prof Benrimoj also criticised the absence of a long-term strategic plan for the profession from the professional organisations, universities, and Government.
"There ought to be some really good debates internally that are cognisant of the external environment and the future health care environment and we should be tying that in - not like we have at the moment which appears to be an ad-hoc way of negotiating services."
Negotiations for the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement are due to start later this year.
Karalyn Huxhagen comments:
The Neil Naismith Commemorative lecture is an oration with an intent to make the profession think outside the square.
The recent oration delivered by well known outspoken pharmacy academic Professor Benrimoj is an interesting speech and timely as the negotiations for the 5th and maybe last Community Pharmacy agreement start to unfold.
Prof Benrimoj has been censured by PSA for his comments but for many of us who have been down this trail before, consider his comments to be valid and worth really pondering.
For the PSA to put in its 5th CPA negotiating team three people who are owners and not to use one of their talented people who represents the ‘other side of pharmacy’ is not good karma for those of us who are struggling and who have had enough in trying to implement and deliver Fourth Agreement programs.
The PGA continually tells us that the ‘cumbersome areas’ of the Fourth Agreement are inflicted on pharmacy by the Government side of the table.
Are any of these pharmacists sitting on these committees actually out there working in community pharmacy?
The Part A money of the agreement is being eroded and the Part B component often costs us money to implement and continue.
Neither community nor hospital pharmacy is the cash cow that Government seems to perceive we are.
For years and years many of us have been asking why pharmacy isn’t standing up to be counted.
We now have nurse practitioners performing our roles in remote and rural clinics and we still cannot have pharmacists credentialed to provide immunization in these remote areas.
Sydney University undertook the research on immunization in pharmacy when I was still at university in the late 70’s.
Apart from the inequity issue the latter part of Professor Benrimoj’s speech is the really important part that the profession needs to embrace and move forward with at all speed before the profession disappears entirely.
We have been told till we are blue in the face be quiet and bashful, do not let your profession divide as you will lose your bargaining power.
Well being the good guys on the block has seen us struggling with a new government in power who is looking to completely reform health at all levels.
Were we ready for this and did we have a strategic plan in place as to how pharmacy as a profession can be a major player in provision of health services-no not really.
This government is looking for cost effective methods of health delivery to deliver better health outcomes for Australians.
Community and hospital pharmacy is ideally located to do this well but we are tied up in postulation, turf wars and a near sightedness of restriction of delivering services from bricks and mortar dispensaries.
The world wide and Australian research that has clearly demonstrated how pharmacy could become a major contributor to the health system if it would only look at other models of delivery has been to a large degree ignored or hidden.
Pharmacy as a profession is a dying health career unless the negotiators of the 5th agreement start to think outside the square and establish the profession on a higher platform in the health arena.
We are neither respected or understood as being a well educated and worthy contributor to better health outcomes f or the Australian people.