Pharmacies say some services could go due to PBS changes
SHADOW Minister for Health and Ageing Peter Dutton says the LNP was assessing the impact of Labor's unexpected reduction in funding for medicines that was revealed in its Economic Statement.
Earlier this month the Federal Government decided to alter remuneration to pharmacists under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) much to the dismay of about 5000 pharmacies across Australia - including about 200 in the Wide Bay region.
But since then, three major consumer groups have joined forces to lobby the government to remain steadfast on its decision, arguing that pharmacies enjoyed inflated subsidies and it was time Australians paid less for medicine.
Mr Dutton did not indicate if the Coalition would overturn the decision, should it win the election, but said that the government had mishandled the situation.
"Successful reforms to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme have previously been undertaken following appropriate consultation and negotiation and are already delivering considerable savings to government," he said.
"It is very concerning that once again, Labor announced policy changes without any consultation or explanation.
"I appreciate the importance of community pharmacy to our health system, and most importantly to patients' health and wellbeing."
Member for Bundaberg Jack Dempsey agreed.
"It worries me that Federal Labor has got the economy in such a state they are once again announcing major policy changes and emergency budget measures on the run without any consultation or explanation."
Crofton Street Pharmacy manager Campbell Gradon said he would be adversely affected by the changes.
"Pharmacies like us will have to look at cutting services we provide such as free delivery and diabetes screenings," he said.
"The major problem for me was that there was an agreement between the government and pharmacy guild and essentially there no consultation to make this change."
Mr Gradon said instead the government should lower the co-payment fees - $5.90 for low-income health card holders and $36.10for general customers - that apply to consumers.
"Consumers in Australia pay more for medicines because the co-payment level that the Federal Government sets is much higher than the UK or New Zealand," he said.
"So the government should pass the savings on to the consumer instead of pocketing it themselves in a form of lower co-payment."
The NewsMail could not reach the Federal Government for comment.