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Thursday, 17 February 2000
Page: 13847

Mrs MAY (11:27 AM) —I rise today to congratulate the owners and staff of three pharmacies in my electorate who recently celebrated an important event in their pharmacies' professional life. Healthpoint Chemist Group—with pharmacies at the Pines Shopping Centre in Elanora, at Tweed Heads and at Palm Beach—is one of the first groups in Australia to be accredited under the Pharmacy Guild of Australia's Quality Care Pharmacy Program. It is also the largest accreditation to date, with 74 staff members from the group's three pharmacies successfully completing the program. The program is a guild initiative which demonstrates that the public is receiving the best possible quality of pharmacy services and health care advice. This is an important achievement and I take this opportunity to congratulate the pharmacies' owners, Russell Watt, Tony Bugela and David Aprile, and their staff, for being trail blazers.

For most of the time since the Pharmacy Guild of Australia was established in 1928, pharmacists in this country have enjoyed a very high reputation for quality service and advice about the use and effects of medications. With such community support, it could have become complacent. However, the guild is striving to achieve higher and higher levels of professional service throughout Australian pharmacies. Today, the Pharmacy Guild predicts that well over 5,000 pharmacies throughout Australia are implementing the Quality Care Pharmacy Program which was introduced last year.

Community pharmacies are very much a part of our daily lives. Along with other key health professional groups, community pharmacists have a responsibility to help to ensure Australians enjoy optimum health care. Community pharmacists are certainly regarded as crucial players for essential health care to be both accessible and affordable. Australians from all walks of life rely on their community pharmacists for authoritative advice on maintaining their health, how to manage symptoms associated with minor ailments and whether they should see a doctor.

As well as their traditional role of providing advice and counselling on the use of medicines, community pharmacists are increasingly entering into cooperative partnerships with general practitioners and other health professionals, becoming part of the medication team. Pharmacists are among the most highly regarded people in our communities. I know that personally from my own experiences with sick members of my family, and I know that from the Morgan poll, which reinforces my own belief through research.

The continuing success of pharmacies depends on even higher standards of professional advice and service, so I welcome the quality care program as a thoroughly practical way for a pharmacy to demonstrate its commitment to those objectives. I congratulate the Pharmacy Guild for having the wit to see how important it is to strive for world's best practice and to then set up the program to achieve it. We have an excellent pharmacy system in Australia. It is probably the best in the world. People enjoy and value being able to walk into a pharmacy and ask for advice about medications and other health concerns.

You only have to go overseas, feel unwell and search in vain for a pharmacy to realise just how important the Australian tradition of community pharmacy is. I am sure we all want to see the present system of pharmacist-owned community pharmacy maintained and strengthened. That imposes an obligation on pharmacists as well. If ownership is going to stay the way it is, a pharmacy has to show that it is playing its part through continuing education, insisting on the highest professional standards and engaging with the community to demonstrate the public benefit of and need for the current arrangements.

The Howard government certainly recognises the contribution the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has made in recent years in implementing a series of pioneering in-house pharmacy reforms and innovative policies and programs to improve primary health care and health education in Australia. It is very important to have a professional accreditation program but it is doubly important to see it working for the benefit of the community. Once again I congratulate the owners and staff of Healthpoint Chemist Group on their achievements in becoming one of the first pharmacies in Australia to win accreditation under the Pharmacy Guild of Australia's Quality Care Pharmacy Program.