The ACT Branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia was established on 1 January 1988. The story of the growth of Pharmacy Practice in the ACT prior to this date is provided in “A History of Pharmacy Practice in the Australian Capital Territory” published in 1988 as an Official Bicentennial Project. The 30 years since the establishment of the ACT Branch has seen the consolidation of Pharmacy Practice in the Territory, the emergence of the ACT Branch as an influential member of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, and partner with the ACT Government in the development of Health Policy in the Territory.
Honorary Life Members (Full)
Peter Downing – past President (1993- 2000) and service to community pharmacy
Patrick Reid – past President (2000 - 2008) and service to community pharmacy
Honorary Life Members (Associate)
Kate Carnell – past President (1987 - 1993) and service to community pharmacy
Amanda Galbraith – past President (2008 - 2017) and service to community pharmacy
Bill Arnold – service to community pharmacy for some 50 years
The formal development of the ACT Branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia started with the formation of an ACT Branch Steering Committee which held its first meeting on 1 August 1987. A proposal to establish an ACT Branch was approved at the November National Council Meeting held in November 1987 with the ACT Branch formally commencing operations on 1 January 1988 with Kate Carnell elected as the inaugural Branch President.
The ACT Branch was at the forefront of activities designed to highlight the inequity of decisions made in respect of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Remuneration Tribunal affecting the provision of pharmacy services to the Australian Community. In particular, all ACT Pharmacists closed their doors for two hours on 11 May 1988 leading an Australia-wide protest against the decisions.
Pharmacists on Strike!
The background to the Pharmacists Strike in March and May 1989 is recorded exhaustively in the Pharmacy Guild of Australia “Ready, Prepared! The History of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia from 1928 to 2008”. In summary, the issue while on the boil for some time came to a head following a 4 April 1989 meeting between the Commonwealth and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. The meeting set the parameters for a struggle over the next two years over control of pharmacists’ remuneration.
In the ACT, Pharmacy Guild Branch President Kate Carnell interviewed on television while closing her Red Hill Pharmacy for two hours, said that pharmacists income had been cut by 12% over the previous 18 months and the Remuneration Tribunal Decision on dispensing fees would further cut income another 24%. The purpose of the closure, she said, was to hope that the Government would realise the impact of the decision, to influence the public to think about how the reduction in the number of pharmacies would impact on their health care, and to represent to their local member of parliament their concerns about revised arrangements.
The Guild and the Government kept talking, with Kate Carnell participating with National Council members in meetings that led to the Government announcing on 11 May 1989 a 10 point plan co authored by Kate Carnell. In September 1989, the Government announced an Expert Advisory Panel on Pharmacy Changes. Included on the panel were Kate Carnell, President of the ACT Branch, and Sue Alexander, representing hospital pharmacists and Chair of the ACT Pharmacy Board.
A key issue during the year was the establishment of the Pharmacy Restructuring Authority and the subsequent offer of a cash payment to eligible pharmacists to relinquish their approval to dispense pharmaceutical benefits under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The resultant restructuring saw fourteen ACT Branch members leave the profession, representing an 18% reduction in ACT pharmacy numbers. The Pharmacy Restructuring Authority continued to influence the ACT Branch. Two more pharmacies closed leaving the Branch with membership just above the threshold.
The ACT Branch supported the development of a Young Pharmacists Committee with the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. This independent body had the aim of fostering the involvement of young pharmacists in the development of the profession into the future.
The ACT Branch participated in the development of Coordinated Care Trials in the ACT sponsored by ACT Health and ACT Division of General Practice. The areas of development included professional fees for Medication Management review in Nursing Homes, the Asthma Card Project, and the expansion of the ACT Methadone Project into Community Pharmacy and a range of other projects with ACT Health.
The ACT Branch continued to be involved in the development of the Coordinated Care Trials in the ACT and pharmacists had the opportunity to deliver Medication Management Services to people not in nursing homes. This represented an opportunity to demonstrate the value that pharmacists can provide in the delivery of alternative health care systems.
The ACT Government’s Community Methadone Program was expanded during the year with encouraging feedback from pharmacists, clients and ACT Health.
The Pharmacy Guild gained a commitment from the Federal Government to preserve the current system of community pharmacy. As State and Territory Governments have the final say about issues affecting ownership of community pharmacy, the ACT Branch, along with the other branches, identified and sought meetings with the departmental officers with policy responsibility and made representations with these officers.
The introduction of the Quality Care Pharmacy Program attracted an overwhelming response from pharmacies across the territory and nationally. The Program sought to put in place appropriate retail and professional standards to assist members in the management and conduct of their businesses, and also demonstrate to governments and the community that community pharmacy is capable of delivering the highest level of products and services to all Australians.
The ACT Branch identified that there was a shortage of pharmacists in the ACT and that the opportunity to address the shortage existed with the Charles Sturt University pharmacy students due to enter the profession at the end of the year. Members were asked to consider mentoring students with pre-graduation of pre-registration studies, with a view to highlight the benefits of working and living in the Canberra region.
Pharmacists and pharmacies in the ACT enthusiastically embraced the Quality Care Pharmacy Program. All members registered, ensuring that the ACT was shown as an example to the rest of the country that the pursuit of quality has discernible benefits for pharmacy, health and the community.
As a result of a Productivity Commission research report conducted in 2005 on Australia’s Health Workforce, in 2006 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), having considered recommendations 6.1 and 6.2 of the Report, initiated a National Accreditation and Registration Scheme and began work on development and implantation of an overall framework for the scheme.
The impact for States and Territories was the obligation for them to develop their own legislation pertaining to pharmacy ownership. In 2009 the ACT Branch Committee began work on ensuring all pharmacy legislation be retained, and therefore began discussions with the ACT Government to ensure pharmacy legislation was introduced into the ACT. This process became the priority for the ACT Branch, and it took many years of advocacy and lobbying by ACT Branch covering the introduction of legislation of pharmacy ownership, registration of premises and premises standards.
The pharmacy ownership issue was a long and protracted process, during which time there were various ACT Health Ministers. Finally in October 2013 pharmacy ownership in the ACT was enshrined in legislation.
In 2016 the ACT Government approved the introduction into legislation of vaccination by pharmacists in the ACT for Influenza for those over 18 years of age. This has been well received and supported by the public as demonstrated by increasing statistics each year. Pharmacists have been extended scope to cover Whooping Cough, the influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and the minimum age reduced to 16 years.