- Australian Community Pharmacy Association
On the corner of Blyth and Sydney road, there used to be a chemist which offered responsible advice to the local community. The staff were invariably cheerful and took pains to make everyone welcome, even the old Italian mamma who had to sit on a chair while she waited for her prescriptions.
Towards the end of 2008, the chemist put its business on the market and was purchased by Chemist Warehouse. To be approached by Chemist Warehouse is a significant challenge as a pharmacist. Their aggressive retail strategy means that they are capable of seriously undercutting a competitor. So it is usually more practical to sell your business to them directly rather than risk taking them on in competition.
So this corner of Brunswick has lost a valuable neighbourhood business. The local chemist plays a critical role as a space between formality the doctor's surgery and the demands of everyday life. A good pharmacist gets to know his or her customers and offers valuable advice about their medication. Trust is essential to a successful pharmacy.
So what has Brunswick gained in return? A supermarket that pretends to be chemist. Chemist Warehouse is an eyesore. The footpath is cluttered with crates of cheap rubbish. They adopt the JB HiFi look of taped black plastic on which is scrawled 'cheap'. And customers are forced to walk through aisles of useless products before they get to the pharmacy at the rear of the store. Once they get their prescription, they have to then take it back through the aisles to the front counter in a plastic security box, where their purchase is scanned by a checkout assistant.
Of course, it's a free world. If people want to shop like this, then why stop them? But it comes at a cost. These predatory corporations come into a neighbourhood and put other local stores out of business by undercutting prices. We are left with ugly branded shops that look just the same as anywhere else. The neighbourhood has lost some of its identity.
In the case of pharmacies, though, there are limits based on the restricted number of licences available in each neighbourhood. There is no doubt a place for specialist discount supermarkets like Chemist Warehouse, but should they be dispensing prescription drugs?
Chemist Warehouse is not evil. They are simply following the business opportunities available in current legislation. Good people work in their stores, but in a system where patient relations are not a priority.
Local pharmacies play a critical role in community health and well-being. Their demise is not something we should accept with resignation. It is more than a milk bar that sadly but inevitably closes as a 7/11 opens. Our long-term health depends on this. It's not for sale.
We can make a difference. Protect our neighbourhoods and our community's health.
Please sign the petition.