ASHLEA HANSEN, HOST: The Federal Government is investing over $148 million to help regional and remote pharmacies transition towards 60-day prescriptions. They will be able to access between $50,000 and $396,000 over four years from next month, depending on location. The funding comes on top of the regional pharmacy maintenance allowance. The combined allowances will offset the average reduction in dispensing revenue for pharmacies. Joining me live is Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride. Emma, thanks for your time this morning.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Good to be with you.
HANSEN: What's the motivation behind the transition to 60-day prescriptions?
MCBRIDE: We're committed to strong community pharmacy right around Australia. With 60-day dispensing, it will make medicines more affordable for 6 million Australians. We know that at the moment about a million Australians delay or avoid having a prescription filled for an essential medicine, that they can't afford it. 60-day dispensing is about making medicines more affordable for all Australians, especially the most vulnerable. And we're striking the right balance in supporting community pharmacies through this transition, where they'll remain at the centre of health care for all Australians whilst transitioning to providing more.
HANSEN: Some pharmacies are concerned these changes will have a drastic negative effect on their income and could even lead to job losses, are these valid concerns?
MCBRIDE: As a pharmacist myself, I am personally and genuinely committed to our profession. We want to make sure that all community pharmacies, 6,000 community pharmacies in every town and city right around Australia, thrive. Which is why we've introduced this transitional allowance to rural, regional and remote pharmacies on top of doubling the regular maintenance allowance, and this is in addition to indexing all Commonwealth payments to community pharmacy. Pharmacists are at the centre of health care in Australia. One of the main lessons we learned out of the pandemic is that pharmacists can and should do more, but our health system hasn't allowed them to do that. So as we transition to 60-day dispensing pharmacists will remain at the centre of health care in all settings right around Australia, whilst being given the scaffolding and the financial support to do more. To be to be immunises, to be diabetes educators, we know pharmacists are the medicines experts and so much more.
HANSEN: So can you promise there won't be any job losses though, are these pharmacies are their concerns valid though?
MCBRIDE: It is so important that community pharmacy is strong. We have made one of the biggest investments in primary care and we want to make sure that every Australian wherever they live has access to quality health care close to home and pharmacists are absolutely central to that. So the government has made this significant investment in the transition allowance on top of doubling the maintenance allowance for rural, for regional pharmacies, and on top of indexing of 7 per cent of every Commonwealth payment to pharmacies. We're providing the financial scaffolding to allow pharmacies to transition to 60 day dispensing and to be able to continue thriving in every part of Australia and as a pharmacist myself, I am personally and professionally committed to making sure that this is what happens.
HANSEN: And will pharmacies be forced to charge for free services like packaging and free delivery?
MCBRIDE: These are decisions that pharmacies make as private businesses, but what we are determined to do is to make sure that medicines are more affordable for all Australians. At the moment Australians are facing cost of living pressures and 60-day dispensing is good for someone's health. It'll increase adherence, it'll reduce visits to GPs and it will make medicines more affordable for almost 6 million Australians. At the same time as we're striking the right balance of investing every dollar saved directly back into community pharmacy, through aged care, through immunising and through these new allowances. So we are making sure that we're providing the right support to community pharmacies at the same time as making medicines affordable for many more Australians.
HANSEN: How will 60-day dispensing impact current medicine shortages? Regional and remote areas are usually hit hardest by the shortages. So how will these areas be hit by those medicines shortages with this 60 day dispensing?
MCBRIDE: All sectors right around Australia have been impacted through the COVID-19 pandemic and global supply chain problems. So what we've done to make this more robust for pharmacists, for patients and for prescribers, is it from the first of July, the manufacturers of close to 3,000 medicines will be required to keep four to six months onshore in Australia to make sure that we have a robust supply chain in Australia, so they're all Australians can access essential medicines.
HANSEN: Emma McBride, thank you for your time this morning.
MCBRIDE: Good to be with you.