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- Issue 81: April 2009
- Issue 80: March 2009
- Issue 79: February 2009
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Why are Pharmacists the Unseen Health professionals?

Karalyn Huxhagen
A Queensland PSA Councilor Perspective

Issue 80: March 2009
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The release of the “National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission’s interim report” is seen by many as a disappointing score card for the role of pharmacists and the practice of pharmacy.
The question many of us have asked in many forums especially of late, is why pharmacists and what they are trained to do, is so poorly understood.
Why do we have politicians discussing how poor the service is at the till when they buy toilet paper on the way home from work rather than the fact that out of 10 businesses in their local strip shopping centre we are actually one of the few businesses still open and able to provide a professional service at 7pm?

I sit on many committees and participate in many debates and evaluations of programs.
I am often very disappointed to discover that very few of my fellow health professionals do not have any idea as to the depth of my training to become a pharmacist and they certainly have very little understanding of the variety of the services that we deliver.

Many of my colleagues debate this is because we put the grocery specials at the front door.
To a degree this is true.
But community pharmacy is competing in a retail environment, employing staff and providing services.
The overheads for provision of a retail environment are enormous.
My local Doctor service now charges the pharmacy a fee per prescription for writing prescriptions for the packing patients.
He refuses to allow this fee to be passed on to the patients and argues that community pharmacy is making large amounts of money out of providing services like dosage administration aids.
No amount of explanation can make him understand that it is not the cash cow that his medical colleagues and organizations say it is.

Why aren’t pharmacists recognized as being worth while contributors to programs such as enhanced primary care packages?
Why are we not part of discharge planning teams and why cannot we have our own MBS numbers for provision of primary health care packages of care?

We do many of these services every day and receive no reward.
This week I had a lady as a patient who has emigrated from Germany.
She has been in Australia one year on the day she saw me.
She wanted her BP taken and it came in at 199/135.
On discussion she said that at her government initiated medical on arrival in the country she had been given a prescription for Karvea but refused to take it.
In her home country she explained she would have used homeopathics to treat this problem with ongoing counseling from her Doctor.

No one had followed up that this lady had understood the risks of not taking her medication, the government Doctor organized by the Department of Immigration knew her as a number at best and will never see her again.
She is now a walking time bomb to inflict damage to herself and an impost on the Australian health care system.

When we had finished our long counseling session that included a BP reading, a long chat on risk factors, provision of material on risk factors and the names of several Doctors that she may be able to use as a regular GP she asked me how much did she owe.
In her home country she would have paid a pharmacist for that session.

We are accessible and well trained health professionals but I feel like the Phantom when trying to participate as an equal with my other health professional colleagues.

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