ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER PATRICK GORMAN: It's delightful to be here at New Street Medical with Dr. Belinda, pharmacist Ashley, and of course Ged Kearney, the Assistant Minister for Health, talking about how do we make sure that more Australians can get access to the health care and medicines they need at a reasonable price. And it is a very exciting day for two reasons. One, it's Wattle Day, the day that we celebrate our national floral emblem. And so wherever you are in Australia, you might see the beautiful golden wattle out and about, if you're a Instagram lover, take a photo, share it, it's a beautiful part of Australia and it blossoms in every state and territory. What is also blossoming in every state and territory today is the next stage of Labor's ongoing commitment to cheaper medicines. Already here in Western Australia 1.4 million West Australians benefited from Labor's commitment to cheaper medicines. And we're going the next step today, making sure more people can access cheaper medicines. And to talk about what that looks like I'll hand over to Ged.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE GED KEARNEY: Well, thank you, Patrick, and happy Wattle Day, everybody. Today is the 1st of September and it is a really exciting day for many Australians right around this country who rely on medicines to manage their chronic diseases day in, day out. Many Australians, from kids with juvenile arthritis to veterans with severe disease to people out there who suffer with all sorts of chronic disease, from cardiac to Crohn's disease. People who they know will be on medicines for decades, maybe even the rest of their lives, will today be able to get two scripts for the price of one. Our 60-day dispensing starts today and this is great news for people right around the country, millions of Australians will save a lot of money when we know that cost of living is the number one issue for so many people right now. It's really great for the GPs and it's wonderful to have Dr. Belinda with us today. And our GP pharmacist, Ashley, lovely to have you. Because this will also mean not only cheaper medicines for Australians, this also means that there will be countless number of GP visits that will be freed up for people who we know wait weeks in some places to be able to access their primary health care clinic, because people won't have to go back month after month to get that script, get that repeat that they know will be the same month after month, they won't have to go to their GP.
So that will free up an awful lot of GP appointments, that's great. And we also know that the research around the world, because many other countries around the world have this policy, that people who can get longer prescriptions are actually more compliant with their medications so they stay healthier. So this is good news right around – it's good news for patients, it's good news for the health system and it's good news for people who are trying to access primary health care. We're very proud of this policy, it makes a lot of sense. And it is coupled with a lot of other cost of living measures that this government is implementing, along with cheaper childcare, along with keeping energy prices down, and we have cheaper medicines for millions of people right around the country. Thanks everyone.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] What does it mean for GPs?
DR BELINDA WOZENCROFT, PRACTICE PRINCIPAL NEW STREET MEDICAL PRACTICE: From a general practice perspective, it's an excellent opportunity to allow us to manage and help a chronic disease in a much more stable, much more proactive way, they'll have potentially less visits if they're stable, and also saving money. So I think that that's a win win for everyone. 67% of our patient population has at least one chronic disease. So this is a significant portion of patients.
JOURNALIST: Can you give any examples of some of the drugs where this will make a big difference for some of the really expensive ones people are having to buy?
KEARNEY: Sure. Well, I come from a nursing background and I looked after a lot of people, for example, with chronic diseases of the bowel, so people with ulcerative colitis, people with Crohn's disease, people with those diseases that they know they were going to have to live with for the rest of their life. And they will take medication to help with that. People with arthritis, people with cardiac conditions who they know will have to take cardiac medications for a long time will benefit from this. And that might be something that our GP pharmacists might be able to enlighten us on. How many patients do you have, that you think that we have to take medications for a long time for decades and this would help?
ASHLEIGH CHAPMAN, PHARMACIST: Yeah, like Belinda said almost 70 per cent of our patients come in for chronic conditions. So that means they're on medication. Usually for decades, so their whole life, so cardiovascular diseases as well, are going to be covered in this first lot so that will really help as they are lifelong.
JOURNALIST: There are concerns that today's announcement means that we could see more rural pharmacies closed down. What's your response to this?
KEARNEY: Well, we were pleased today to see the announcement from the Pharmacy Guild that they are stepping down their campaign. We are absolutely committed to ensuring the viability of community pharmacies and that's why we have committed to reinvesting every cent that the government saves back into community pharmacy, every single cent will go back in.
We are also working with the community pharmacy sector to make sure that they can increase the services that they provide to the community, for example, they will be able to give vaccinations under the National Immunization program, which previously only doctors were able to do so this will increase the services and increase their income. We supported rural and regional pharmacies, some pharmacies around the countryside will have an injection of up to $400,000 to support their services. So we are very confident that community pharmacy stays viable and will stay strong with this policy in place.
JOURNALIST: Suppose if people have these ongoing chronic disease, why only 60 days, why not allow them six months, or why not longer?
KEARNEY: Well, some people already get, say a six month script for their medications. So this will mean that they can get a year. So this will double the number of scripts that they can actually get. So for some yes, it will mean a lot longer than just a month. So it depends on the medication that you're on.