24/7 pharmacies to open in Adelaide from July

The search is on for three Adelaide pharmacies willing to stay open around the clock from July, under a $900,000 state government election promise to ease pressure on hospital emergency departments.

Feb 22, 2023, updated Feb 22, 2023
Health Minister Chris Picton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Health Minister Chris Picton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Tender documents released by SA Health last week reveal the government wants the community pharmacies to start operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week from July this year.

The documents call for expressions of interest from pharmacy services in Adelaide’s north, south and centre, with all three businesses to receive a combined total of $900,000 over three years to extend their hours, including on public holidays.

“Participating community pharmacies will provide after-hours medication dispensing, health advice and other professional pharmacy services,” the tender documents state.

“Extended-hours community pharmacy services will offer consumers and families increased access to care and the option to attend a pharmacy rather than a hospital emergency department when they need advice.”

It follows a Labor election commitment, with Premier Peter Malinauskas last year saying the extended operating hours would provide “peace of mind” to families in urgent need of medical assistance and advice late at night.

According to the tender documents, funding to support the extended operating hours would dry up in July 2026.

Health Minister Chris Picton told InDaily that pharmacy was a critical part of healthcare, but previously there hadn’t been a strong connection with the rest of the health system.

“We are excited we have now released the tender to establish three 24/7 pharmacies,” he said.

“The lack of access to pharmacies after hours is a concern that is raised by many families, and often leaves people with nowhere else to turn but emergency departments. 

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“I hope as many pharmacies as possible are able to put in their applications to be part of this initiative.”

Picton said proposals from pharmacies willing to participate would be considered through a competitive process.

The tender documents state that to be eligible for the funding, pharmacies must demonstrate that they can sell schedule two and three medicines and have a product range that is sufficient to treat minor illnesses.

The pharmacies must also demonstrate that their staff can address health queries.

It comes after the federal government this morning announced that it would open five new Medicare urgent care clinics in South Australia as part of a national plan to ease pressure on hospital emergency departments.

The clinics would open seven days a week with extended hours and would bulk bill patients with non-life-threatening conditions.

Picton told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the clinics would open at the end of this year or early next year.

He said the federal government was seeking expressions of interest from GP clinics willing to take part in the program.

“It is really difficult to see GPs across the board, it is difficult even more so after hours or for those urgent appointments – people are waiting almost 50 per cent longer than they were for a GP appointment compared to a few years ago,” he said.

“There’s home doctors services and things like that, but there’s actually been a fall in the number of people who have been able to get a home doctors service in the past few years by about 70 per cent in South Australia.

“This will give people another option.”

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