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November 2002 issue Pharmacy Today magazine


The Pharmacy Guild's gradually declining membership is raising concern but also resentment from some members towards "freeloading" non-members they feel they are subsidising.

More than 17%, or 162, of New Zealand's 934 pharmacies don't belong to the guild.

In 1989, 1% of pharmacies were non-members, the proportion gradually rising to 10% by 1997.

Today, the guild has 772 members compared to 951 ten years ago.

Guild president Richard Heslop says while pharmacy closures and amalgamations are the main reasons, the proportion of non-members is a concern at a time when the guild is going in to bat for the entire profession.

It recently emerged from political lobbying and public awareness campaigns to block the government's plans to open up pharmacy ownership to non-pharmacists.

For the past two years, it has been locked into national pharmacy services negotiations with the Ministry of Health and now District Health Boards. This process looks likely to continue well into next year.

Both issues were, and continue to be time consuming and "prohibitively expensive", benefiting members and non-members alike, says Richard Heslop.

Auckland pharmacist and guild member Mike Carter is fed up with "subsidising non-members who are gaining the benefits without contributing."

The guild holds up work such as establishing and maintaining Pharmacode, helping develop and the ongoing monitoring of electronic claiming, securing funding for medication management and taking a lead role in Nicotine Replacement Therapy as well as decades of branding the profession, as benefiting the profession as a whole.

Last year, members were called on to pay a "compulsory levy" of $250 to fight the government's ownership plans and annual membership rates were raised 10% at this year's AGM. The meeting also raised the possibility of members paying per pharmacy site, particularly with the looming reality of multiple ownership.

Some southern pharmacists share Mike Carter's sentiments.

"Some members have the view that some people are freeloading on the back of the work done by the guild," says guild councillor and Dunedin pharmacist Don Anderson.

The South Island has always had a stronger proportion of guild members to non-members than the North Island.

Richard Heslop says "targeting" non-members to join is a task that will wait until the pharmacy services agreement is completed.

He acknowledges some pharmacies have scrapped their membership because of financial hardship.

Non-members contacted by Pharmacy Today offered varied reasons for not joining.

Tight finances were the main reasons given. One pharmacist with 95% of his business generated from retai sales says he sees no point in joining.

Other responses were they hadn't been approached by the guild, saw lobbying government as futile, or found dealing with the local branch difficult.

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