Government about-face on pharmacy location rules
THE federal government has changed pharmacy location rules to allow large medical centres to house a pharmacy on site, but has denied it was the result of a recent accusation from a private clinic that GP super clinics were being granted special treatment.
The change was announced just days after MO reported (23 September) that a GP super clinic in Wodonga, Victoria, was set to have a pharmacy, despite a private medical centre in the same street not being allowed the same opportunity, because there was already an operating pharmacy nearby.
Effective from 18 October, the changes will mean pharmacists no longer need an existing pharmacy approval to set up in shopping centres, large medical centres, private hospitals or towns with one pharmacy.
Tests determining population demands for a pharmacy will also be simplified.
Dr Khaled El-Sheikh, owner of the Tristar Medical Centre in Wodonga, welcomed the change and said that rather than put a café in the empty room where he had wanted a pharmacy, he would now proceed with his original plan.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the change was the result of an independent review on pharmacy location rules conducted last year and the new rules “will be applied to all applicants transparently and consistently”.
“Any suggestion the changes were made to favour a particular applicant is complete nonsense,” the spokesperson said.
Dr El-Sheikh said after being informed of the change he contacted the area pharmacist he had wanted in his medical centre and invited him to set up in his building.
“As long as the rule has changed, it’s better for everybody,” Dr El-Sheikh said.
“Not only Wodonga, it will make more sense in a lot of other sites,” he said.
Until now, the pharmacy agreement has prohibited a new pharmacy from opening within 1 km of an existing pharmacy.
The agreement has also prevented an existing pharmacy from moving within 500 m of another.
Pharmacy Guild president Kos Sclavos said the changes were “in the interests of the long-term sustainability” of the industry.
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