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Bitter pill – chemists slash hours in protest

Outback Pharmacies, who run all five Broken Hill chemists, have cut back trading hours in protest at the federal government’s decision to implement a 60-day dispensing policy from September which will see some customers’ medicine bills fall.

Outback – along with other members of the Pharmacy Guild who have been running a well-funded and very loud campaign against the changes – say the proposed move from 30 day to 60 day dispensing will cost them money, and could lead to cost-cutting in stores, and even closure.

The decision taken by Outback on Tuesday has left Broken Hill, already struggling with very few after-hours pharmacies, with a worsening situation when it comes to after-hours accessibility to medication.

From August 28, Netting Chemist on McCulloch St will cut four and a half hours off its opening times, closing at 1pm Monday to Friday instead of 5.30pm, CP Peoples Chemist on Argent St will cease all weekend operations, Tembys on Thomas St and Good Price Pharmacy at Broken Hill Village will close at 1pm on Saturdays and the Amcal Pharmacy at Westside Village won’t be open past 4pm on weekends.

Outback Pharmacies made the announcement on social media, specifically citing the decision by the federal government to change the prescription regularity, which is also set to bring Australia in line with other countries.

The UK, Canada, France, Germany, the US, and our neighbours across the Tasman, New Zealand, already have two or three month dispensing that operates smoothly and saves many customers money.

“This reduction in hours is due to the Albanese government’s 60-day dispensing policy and the loss of revenue all pharmacies in Australia will be subjected to as a result,” Outback said in a statement.

The mooted change to prescriptions means instead of getting, say, 30 tablets at a time some patients will be able to get 60 at a time. Given pharmacies charge a fee for dispensing each prescription it means they will only be able to charge once in two months, instead of twice.

“In order to keep the pharmacies of Broken Hill viable and able to meet the needs of the entire community this will be a necessary change in operation,” said Outback’s statement on the shop hours.

The government says the change is aimed at lowering prices and supply issues for the most vulnerable Australians. They are also promising around $120million in funding to pharmacies to smooth the transition.

“The policy is deeply flawed,” says Outback Pharmacies, “and will disadvantage most Australians, particularly pensioners/concession card holders who take multiple medications.”

The change in pharmacy hours will also likely disadvantage all those in the Silver City who rely on pharmacies for both their regular and emergency medicines – something Outback Pharmacies acknowledges, but also says there was no other choice.

“We understand that these changes will inconvenience many in our community and expect that there will be some frustration and difficulty adjusting.

“We are committed to continue working with all the patients and stakeholders in Broken Hill and surrounding communities to ensure we deliver the best possible service and health outcomes for our community,” says Outback.

CP Peoples Chemist – Mon-Fri 9-5.30 (previously – Mon-Fri 8.30-6, Sat 8.30-1)

Tembys Day and Night Pharmacy – Mon-Fri 8.30-7, Sat 9-1 (previously Mon-Fri 8-8, Sat 9-2)

Good Price Pharmacy – Mon-Fri 9-5.30, Sat 9-1 (previously Mon-Fri 8.30-6, Sat 9-1)

Netting Chemist – Mon-Fri 9-1pm (previously Mon-Fri 9-5.30)

Amcal Pharmacy (westside) – Mon-Fri 9-5.30, Sat 9-4, Sun 10-3 (previously Mon-Fri 9-5.30, Sat 9-5, Sun 10-4)

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