With the roll-out of the first stage of the 60-day dispensing policy expected from 1 September 2023, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is calling on the Albanese Government to pause the rollout, warning that anticipated funding cuts may not only negatively impact the pharmacy industry but also the aged care sector.
In a statement released on 7 August, the Guild says that almost every single aged care resident in Australia could be faced with a new cost of at least $800 per year to have their medicine packed and delivered to them from 1 September, if community pharmacy funding cuts begin as planned.
The Guild says medicines are currently packed and delivered to 188,000 aged care residents each week for free, in the form of Dose Administration Aids (DAA) or Webster Packs, with the cost subsidised by dispensing fees.
According to the Guild, new industry and government data shows the free service costs approximately $15 ($15.50) per week for each resident, equating to $806 annually.
“The Albanese Government is unfairly forcing a huge new cost on aged care residents because they haven’t consulted and they don’t understand what they are doing,” Pharmacy Guild National President Professor Trent Twomey is quoted as saying in the Guild statement.
“We are calling on Albanese Government to pause the roll-out of 60-day dispensing, sit down and consult with community pharmacies and aged care providers to ensure no resident or pharmacy is worse off.”
However, during a doorstop interview on 7 August, Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler, questioned the Guild’s stance, calling it a “scare campaign” and saying that under The Guiding Principles “aged care facilities are funded to take responsibility for [the] medication management of their residents”.
“The Guiding Principles make it very clear that facilities are expected to have medicine packaging arrangements in place so that their residents get the right medicine, at the right dose, at the right time, every single day,” Minister Butler said.
“Now, some facilities have effectively outsourced that responsibility to their local community pharmacy to do the Webster packs – to package the medicine needs for every day.
“And that, no doubt, reflects the fact that being the supplier of medicines to an aged care facility as a pharmacy can be a pretty lucrative source of revenue for pharmacies. For a 100-bed facility, for example, it might mean as much as $150,000 a year in income just for the dispensing and handling fees for those medicines.
“But let me be clear, these arrangements are the responsibility of an aged care facility […] This is the responsibility of facilities whether they do it themselves, or they outsource it to pharmacies.”
When questioned further about the Guild’s “scare campaign”, Minister Butler further reiterated that “aged care facilities are funded for this service [medication management]” and that medication management is the “responsibility of the facility not of the resident”, adding that this “has nothing to do with 60-day prescribing”.
“Now, they [aged care facilities] might outsource that to pharmacies, they might do it in-house – that’s not really a matter for the aged care resident, Minister Butler said.
“The issue is: Government funds aged care facilities to do it, they’ve got a responsibility to do it. So, this idea of a new fee or a new tax on aged care residents is […] ignores the reality of aged care funding arrangements and seeks to instil fear in some of our most vulnerable members of the community.”