Publication Date 01/11/2010         Volume. 2 No. 10   
Information to Pharmacists

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Why don’t Community Pharmacist Owners value their Employee Pharmacists?

Dr John Dunlop (PGDipPharm, MPharm, DPharm(Auck), FACPP, FNZCP, FPSNZ, MCAPA)

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John has been involved in community pharmacy for most of his professional life.
Until he sold up, he owned the busiest pharmacy in New Zealand.
He started the first "Dispensary Only" pharmacy in New Zealand which for a long time was the biggest dispensary in New Zealand.
John moved on to become a professional services provider through Comprehensive Pharmacy Solutions Ltd (CPSL) as a clinical advisory pharmacist.
He holds a range of high profile positions within the pharmacy profession.

I read in I2P a couple of months ago about the impending increased number of pharmacists being produced by the ever expanding number of pharmacy schools and the negative impact this might have on community pharmacists’ salaries.
I was surprised to learn that the problem has already occurred in New Zealand where, in Auckland with an oversupply of pharmacists, qualified registered pharmacists are being employed for the princely sum of $NZ22.00 per hour! This equates to around $NZ44,000.00 per annum and doesn’t provide much of an income when the registration fees and tax is deducted, particularly when one considers that the pharmacist has spent four years working for a degree and a fifth year completing an intern programme. In addition pharmacists must conform to a stringent Code of Ethics, be of good character, drug free, have no criminal convictions, and be subject to disciplinary proceedings if suspected of incompetence or any wrongdoing.

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What has become of our profession? The profession itself has much to answer for, when those in a position of power i.e. the pharmacy owners, can denigrate the profession to such a degree by placing such a limited value on the services of a community pharmacist.

Is it that the role for which most of us worked so hard is now so inconsequential that it has no value in health care?

Or is it that lesser-qualified (technicians) individuals can now undertake the role we used to perform?

Or is it that the greed of the owners has become so entrenched that they are prepared to marginalise pharmacists by ensuring that they have no money, no say and no future?

Whatever the reason, we must be very concerned at the diminishing value of the employed community pharmacist. There is obviously a mismatch between actual and perceived need for pharmacists working in the retail pharmacy environment. There is an urgent need to look at the legislation and re-appraise the need to have pharmacists working in and in control of, community pharmacies. If their value equates to $NZ22.00 per hour, this role is either totally overstated or totally under valued.

Community pharmacy needs to take a good long look at itself and seriously consider if the role of the community pharmacist is as important to the community as we are led to believe. Improving patient health outcomes benefits the public, as does improving patient safety, and both outcomes should attract a decent health professional salary. Of course if these outcomes are imaginary and can’t be shown to be undertaken in the community pharmacy environment, then having a registered pharmacist in that environment would be total overkill and consequently of little value.

Paying pharmacists such ridiculously low salaries (especially when compared to the owner’s take-home pay) has the potential to marginalise the profession at best and create a second rate, under valued and worthless calling at worst. A resolution to this problem is required!

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Submitted by Gerry McInerney on Tue, 02/11/2010 - 21:30.

With the obvious experience of John Dunlop I am quite amazed to see that somehow he believes community
pharmacy proprietors are responsible for the over supply of pharmacists. The Pharmacy schools have used the pharmacy course as a milking cow for extra revenue. If the course meets the criteria it must be accredited. When supply and demand are unequal and many more pharmacists than are required graduate, there will be a reduction in the number of students or courses. For years the profession screamed that there were not enough pharmacists.
With reductions in margins it would seem inevitable that some proprietors would offer as little as possible in remuneration.
My main point of disagreement however is that John infers most employee pharmacists earn $22/hour. Mine earn $45/hour plus super plus holiday entitlements plus an annual bonus. I don't think this is uncommon according to discussion with my peers. I do however only employ pharmacists that meet my criteria for proficiency and client care.
Career paths in hospital pharmacy provide a very viable option for many pharmacists. Working hours, holidays and progression, not always available to the same extent in the community setting provide valuable incentives, and certainly pay better than NZ$22/hour.
The calibre of the new graduates is outstanding. Suddenly rural pharmacies are able to recruit pharmacists, a position that was not there five or ten years ago. The pay rate there is excellent. One cannot, of course, force city pharmacists to move, but it is a bit rich for them to complain when there are good pharmacist positions elsewhere.
Murdoch University in Perth has just discontinued its pharmacy course. It may be the forerunner of others. I am an optimist as I see a great future for our profession and for its members. Evolving practice modalities will see great opportunities provided. I certainly do not subscribe to the doom and gloom of your columnist.

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