I have a story in the Crikey bulletin today, that asks the question: Are pharmacists the most defensive, insular and change resistant of all the health professions?
It’s about how health reform advocate John Menadue was “disinvited” from speaking at an Australian College of Pharmacy meeting, after making a provocative speech to a pharmacy conference, as previously reported at Croakey.
I spoke to several senior pharmacists and others in the health sector when researching the story (the Australian College of Pharmacy did not return my calls but I will be happy to post follow-up comments from them, the Guild and others).
Here is some of what they had to say, both about the specifics of the Menadue case and the pharmacy profession in general:
A senior pharmacist who did not want to be named:
“I am absolutely ashamed… my profession at the moment is under a cloud of censorship being perpetrated by people who don’t control most of us.”
Another senior pharmacist who did not want to be named:
“We need to listen to people who have in the past shaped government policy. When they express a view of pharmacy, we need to listen to that view. Some of the things John said (at the Sydney conference) were a little bit off the mark but a lot of what he said was right, that we do have a perception problem about how we conduct ourselves.”
Warwick Plunkett, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia:
“The Guild in these matters are oversensitive, albeit it’s an important time in their negotiations of the community pharmacy agreement and I can understand they don’t want that in any way upset. But I think it’s healthy to have statements being made out there and an opportunity to either defend or take note of them in improving the eventual outcome for the profession.”
Professor Andrew Gilbert, Director, Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, Sansom Institute: University of South Australia:
“I was astounded by the decision, as many pharmacists had been enthusiastic about Menadue’s speech to the Sydney conference. Why would you, having got someone of the quality of John Menadue as a speaker, not use his intelligence and his knowledge of government workings and policy issues?”
Consultant clinical pharmacist Debbie Rigby:
“I think John Menadue’s talk at the Pharmacy Australia Congress expressed the thoughts and opinions of many pharmacists throughout Australia but also the wider health care environment and their perception of the pharmacy profession and industry. It’s always beneficial to hear the outsider looking in. John has a lot of experience in health policy. Whilst we may not agree with his comments, I think it’s an opportune time to reflect on the pharmacy profession’s role and perceptions in the whole health care environment.”
Professor Lloyd Sansom, Emeritus Professor, Uni SA:
“If someone of Menadue’s stature makes a statement, you’d want to listen to it and have a discussion with him. Rather than isolate him I would have thought it very prudent and sensible to engage in a dialogue with someone of his eminence and experience. He’s got something to say, you don’t have to agree with him, you can challenge him, why would you want to not listen to him? Don’t be scared of debate.”
Dr Lisa Nissen. Senior lecturer in the pharmacy school at the University of Queensland:
“We don’t always like what we hear but you’ve got to try and take onboard the lessons that you can learn from people who have different perspectives. We need to be challenged because there are indicators that the current practice model is not robust enough to take us where we want to go in the future. Taking on different perspectives and thinking about how we can integrate them is a good idea; that’s what smart people do.”
Carol Bennett, Consumers Health Forum:
“These issues are not new. For years some of the more progressive sections of the pharmacy sector have been discussing the need for pharmacy to embrace its role as a health provider and move away from being seen as retailers. If this is seen as controversial, I would be concerned about the extent to which the pharmacy profession and the Guild in particular maintain such a monopoly over the Community Pharmacy Agreement. I would like to think that the fear of open debate and discussion about pharmacy’s role is a thing of the past and that the profession understands its place as a health provider and, in doing that, all the accountability and transparency that go with it.”
No doubt there will be others, whether in pharmacy or the health sector more broadly, who have strong views on these issues. Croakey is happy to post your comments.