Simon Burrow has sent in this comment on the recent Crikey article by CHOICE’S Michael Johnston calling for the community’s interests to be factored into forthcoming Government-Guild negotiations:
“It’s a well known fact that if you want to break a wall down quickly, place
a pharmacist on one side and a bag of money on another. Demolition will be
Yes, pharmacists should serve the community and it’s been a well-worn argument
by the Guild in their $15 billion negotiations with the sitting Government
every five years.
However, how do you reconcile the steady march of super-pharmacists
who sit in their offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, hocked to the
eyeballs with debt owing to self-serving wholesalers (in return they dispense
the favour of giving them their distribution business), and to the quasi-chains
(or buying groups as they are delicately named)?
These super-pharmacists employ young, usually Asian female, pharmacists as employees to push the pills and ensure that ‘turnover’ and ‘number of scripts filled’ is raised
each week. Often, the brand/banner owner (usually one of the wholesalers)
provides the ‘retail manager’ who ensures that everything runs smoothly and
profitably for the owner and brand owner.
But, is this community pharmacy? Is this why the Guild continues to hang
onto the last vestiges of regulations and not allow free market forces to
operate – to allow selected pharmacists and peripheral industry players to
pile more feathers on to their nests?
It’s an elitist and self-serving situation. Surely, this is not what Australia is about?
In a recent visit to Singapore, I saw the free market system at
work. Dedicated pharmacists providing a high level of service and patient
care and well-run, clean and modern pharmacies. As an aside, they’re profitable
Surely, Ms Roxon, we should be opening it up; allow the brands to flourish;
allow other entrants into the market BUT, concentrate on upping the ante
with regard to provision of information, proper patient counselling, take
some of the strain off the GPs and allow pharmacists to give ‘flu injections
and the like.
That way, the professionals will do what they are trained to do and the businessmen can ensure a robust PBS.”
• Simon Burrow trained as a schoolteacher and journalist before embarking on a career in health and beauty retailing for over twenty years. He is now consulting, predominantly in health and beauty, and works in Australia, India, Singapore, South Africa and France. He is best known as the brains behind both the Clicks (South Africa) and Priceline (Australia) customer loyalty schemes — ClubCard.