SA pharmacists concerned about the impact of retail chains
South Africa’s pharmacists have voiced their concern over the impact that the expanse of pharmacies in large retail chains is having on their profession, according to a new survey conducted by PPS.
The survey of more than 200 pharmacists – which comprised 22% of those in public employment and 78% in private – found that 86% of respondents felt threatened by the expanse of pharmacies in large retail stores.
According to Gerhard Joubert, Head of Group Marketing and Stakeholder Relations at PPS, the financial services provider focused on graduate professionals, it is unsurprising that pharmacists are concerned about the impact of retail stores moving into the pharmacy space. “People tend to have far less time these days than in the past, with the result that many may opt for a pharmacy that is located in a large retail store as they can combine two trips in one.”
He notes, however, that it is not simply about ease of accessibility, as the larger retail stores may also be able to offer certain product lines at a discounted price due to their greater bargaining power.
In fact, 92% of respondents to the survey said they were concerned about the impact that discounts in large stores would have on their business.
“The growth of pharmacies in large retail stores can have myriad benefits for consumers, enabling them to access pharmaceutical services at their own ease. However, the benefits of building a relationship with a local independent pharmacy should not be underestimated, as they also have more of an opportunity to get to know the customers and may be better placed to advise them on off-the-shelf medicinal requirements,” says Joubert.
Ivan Kotzé, Executive Director of the Pharmaceutical Society, is optimistic that recent discussions with the National Department of Health indicated the Department’s intention to further facilitate access to pharmaceutical services. “The Department recognises that for universal healthcare coverage for the entire population it is important that all healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, should be involved with service delivery. For this reason, a recent meeting was called to discuss possible models for referring public sector patients, particularly those who require chronic medication, to private sector pharmacies. This will make it easier for patients to receive their medicine from a pharmacy near to their place of work, so it won’t be necessary for them to take time off work or incur travel expenses to fetch chronic medicines.”
A key challenge that still remains for pharmacists is regulation of the sector, with 91% stating that they do not believe current legislation caters sufficiently for the needs of pharmacists.
Joubert also notes that in line with many skilled professions in South Africa, the shortage of qualified people remains a huge problem.
Bada Pharasi, President of the South African Pharmacy Council, recently noted at the 1st National Pharmacy Conferencethat the biggest challenge faced by pharmacy in South Africa and internationally is that of human resources shortage, which led to the formation on a non-profit organisation, Pharmacy HR 2013 NPO.
“We welcome the fact that the Pharmacy Council has taken this forward thinking step as the NPO has stated an aim of developing retention strategies for pharmacists, encourage the adoption of pharmacy schools by pharmaceutical companies and encourage specialised training for key aspects of pharmacy practice.”
Article by BY GERHARD JOUBERT, PPS