Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4025 ..
Mr Speaker, I would kindly suggest that Woolworths would be best served sticking to food and vegetables and leaving the vital and important area of pharmacy to those best trained and educated to deal with dispensing the pharmaceutical and health needs of our community. I fully support the motion.
MR CORBELL(Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (3.37): The government will be supporting this proposal today. All states in Australia have legislative provisions restricting the ownership of pharmacies to pharmacists. However, previously under legislation in both the ACT and the Northern Territory, a pharmacy could be owned by a non-pharmacist provided the pharmacy, and therefore its medicines, was under the direct control and personal supervision of a registered pharmacist.
The issue of pharmacy ownership was first addressed in the national competition policy review of pharmacies dated February 2000. The review was subsequently endorsed by COAG. With respect to the ownership of pharmacies, the review recognised that, whilst there are serious restrictions on competition, the current limitations on who may own and operate a pharmacy are seen as a net benefit to the Australian community as a whole.
Recommendation 1 of that review was that, firstly, legislative restrictions on who may own and operate community pharmacies be retained and, secondly, with existing exceptions, the ownership and control of community pharmacies should continue to be confined to registered pharmacists. That was the finding of the national competition policy review of pharmacies.
The ACT government's health action plan includes a commitment to maintain a high standard of health protection for the ACT population through strategies and actions to promote the safe use of medicines in the community. Pharmacists are an important element in the strategic delivery of medicines-related health care in the ACT. They work closely with several branches of the ACT government and other health care professionals to provide a number of community-based health care programs.
These include the opioid dependency treatment program, the benzodiazepine voluntary undertaking program and the provision of rifampicin for the prevention of meningitis. They also control the inappropriate diversion of pseudoephedrine into the illegal manufacture of amphetamines. In delivering these programs the pharmacist will often be required to forfeit a sale in the interest of public safety.
There are currently 56 pharmacies providing pharmacy care across the ACT. The majority of these pharmacies are owned by pharmacists who reside in the ACT. A few of these pharmacists also have business partners who are based interstate. It is estimated that these local pharmacies employ approximately 200 pharmacists and 500 other staff on a full-time or part-time basis.
The continued ownership of pharmacies by individual pharmacists does, however, carry some risk, as it does with any industry that is comprised of a diverse group of small businesses. This risk has been managed in recent years by a number of initiatives, the most important being the quality care pharmacy program funded under an agreement between the Pharmacy Guild and the Commonwealth government.