Labor to help create three 24-hour pharmacies

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A Foley Labor Government will spend $3 million - over three years - to trial a program to help three Sydney pharmacies expand their operating hours to 24 hours, seven days a week.

This is about helping people fill prescriptions outside regular business hours. It will be a one-off three year subsidy - which will cover the cost of a pharmacist, pharmacy assistant and a security guard between the hours of 11pm and 6am. The three-year period would allow the pharmacy to establish a reputation and eventually become self-sustaining.

The potential locations based on population and proximity to hospitals would be:

  • Inner-west: Glebe/Leichhardt/Newtown area;
  • Northern Suburbs: Chatswood/ Ryde/Eastwood; and
  • Southwest Sydney.

If it is successful, a Foley Labor Government will look at extending the trial to other parts of the State where there would be the need for 24 hour pharmacies such as the Hunter, the South Coast, major regional centres and the North Coast.

The three Sydney pharmacies would be selected under a tender process. The $3 million program will provide $1 million over three years to each pharmacy to assist with security and other associated costs.

Currently, there is a 24-hour pharmacy in Sydney's west at Stockland Town Centre, Polding Street, Wetherill Park. It has become a source for after-hours medications for patients who have visited Westmead, Fairfield, Blacktown, Nepean and Sutherland hospitals. This pharmacy also receives a large number of after-hours telephone calls, seeking informal advice on minor medical matters such as mild fevers and earaches.

Due to financial constraints and limited trade from 11pm to 6am, pharmacies are unable to operate during these hours until they have established a reputation and knowledge in the community.

Ideally, a 24-hour pharmacy should be located near several hospitals and residential areas so that a patient who receives a script at the emergency department in the middle of the night can go to the pharmacy and have it filled.

It would also serve a parent who has a child with a minor illness or the need for an over-the-counter medication in the middle of the night.

It is the latest part of Labor's new direction on health, which includes redevelopments and upgrades to hospitals to provide more surgical space and beds in NSW hospitals like Westmead, Nepean, Concord, St George and Campbelltown hospitals, as well as increasing the number of nurses by 840 in emergency departments and paediatric wards and 500 paramedics

This also includes supporting new approaches to health including:

  • Four nurse walk-in centres;
  • Allowing pharmacists to provide flu vaccinations; and
  • Providing whooping cough vaccinations to pregnant women so their children are born with immunity to the disease.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord

"Every parent knows the frustration of needing to fill a prescription for a child at 2am and not being able to get to a pharmacy - after visiting an emergency department with a child with a fever or earache . Labor recognises the valuable role pharmacies play in local communities and we want to support the work they do.

"There are occasions when it is necessary to visit a pharmacy - outside traditional hours - and this is about responding to that need.

 "This is about responding to the changing health needs of Australia and stepping outside the square.

"The 24 hour pharmacies will complement emergency departments, as well as help families and shift workers. This is a common sense approach.

"In addition, this should reduce the number of adults visiting over-stretched emergency departments, which are treating category five patients - the lowest triage category. Instead, the emergency departments should be concentrating on the most urgent cases."