Modern-day healthcare ‘miracle’ faces uncertainty

Released on 18th June 2015

Melbourne resident Robyn Williams is concerned that the community pharmacy she credits with her continued mobility, despite 20 years of Multiple Sclerosis, is still facing closure after the Federal Budget cut its funding.

Ms Williams says her neurologist describes her mobility as a modern-day miracle. “I’m his only MS patient who walks to the clinic by themselves. Everyone else either has a carer or is in a wheelchair”, Ms Williams said.

“I absolutely credit the integrated, one-stop model of care I receive at cohealth – where my GP, nurse, pathologist and pharmacist can all work together and under the one roof – with this miracle.”

Community, healthcare advocates, and political representatives at both state and federal level continue to voice concern that Australia’s only community GP/pharmacy is still facing the axe – despite demonstrating quality health care and delivering the Federal Government PBS savings of 30 percent last year.

cohealth Chief Executive Ms Morgain said she had been simply overwhelmed by hundreds of offers of support from community members, many who have grown up with the service which has been operating for over 100 years, and political support from the local Federal Member, Adam Bandt, and Labor state and federal representatives.

“There’s also been interest from organisations like the Australian Pharmacy Society and the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association, who had not heard about this integrated community GP/Pharmacy model until the government said it would cut it.

The model is also consistent with calls by the Australian Medical Association for pharmacists and GPs to be part of mental health care teams.

“For decades, we’ve been quietly innovating on behalf of the government a better way of delivering cost-effective and coordinated community-based health and pharmaceutical care to
people with complex needs, who often come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Ms Morgain said she had met with the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, and although she was heartened by her support, it remains unclear what arrangements will be put in place to ensure the pharmacy continues.

“We are at a crossroads – but I’m optimistic that we have been presented with an opportunity”, Ms Morgain said.

“Given the interest in the model from the health sector, I’d like to think that not only can we save this community pharmacy, but perhaps the government can use this model to help people like Robyn who live elsewhere, access better health care across Australia.

“We know we save the government on pharmaceutical subscriptions, but more importantly, our GPs, pharmacists and allied health professionals tell us this approach helps them reduce patient harm and hospitalisation associated with over medication or the interaction of different medicines. It’s a win-win model.

Ms Williams said her message for the Minister for Health was to not only retain the service, but have it rolled it out to other states.

“I’m Aboriginal, and while I don’t have diabetes, many in my community do, but because they live in other states, they can’t receive the sort of caring, integrated treatment that I access here.”
“I’m getting older, like a lot of my friends who also use cohealth, but the service is growing with me – they know me and I know them, it’s just so easy to keep myself well.”

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