This week, a video from one of the hosts of KiisFM’s The Thinkergirls attracted the angry attention of health professionals.
During a visit to a pharmacy, co-host Kristie Mercer posted a video to Facebook on Tuesday questioning why it takes so long to receive a script.
“I have to entertain myself because there’s a 15-minute wait on getting a script. What the f***? Like, I’m sorry, what is the hold up on the process? You hand over your prescription and they’re like, ‘Sure, there’ll be a 15-minute wait, here’s your little buzzer and we’ll be with you in 15′,” she said in the clip, which had been viewed more than 60,000 times before it was taken down yesterday.
"Like, what is happening? I can see the medicine behind you, it’s like two metres away. Just grab it off the shelf and press print on the old sticker printer, slap it on and away we go. Is there some kind of magical process that’s taking place back there? Because I’m very intrigued as to why it takes so long."
She went on suggest that it's a ploy to get customers walking around and purchasing other items while they wait.
Unsurprisingly, pharmacists and doctors alike were quick to jump on the post and express their frustration at these kind of comments.
In a segment on their radio show yesterday, Mercer issued an apology about the clip, saying she "regrets if anyone was made to feel undervalued and apologises for it coming across that way."
Of course as a customer, waiting for a service can be frustrating. But rather than a complaint about wait times, Mercer's rant highlights a wider problem with our views on pharmacists: a lack of public knowledge about what they actually do.
"Often there is a misunderstanding from the public about what a pharmacist does and what the process is. The pharmacist is responsible for ensuring the medicine is safe and appropriate for an individual," explains Shane Jackson, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
This means that despite working alongside and playing an equally vital role in the healthcare system as GPs and nurses, pharmacists often aren't given the same level of respect or weight.
For starters, a crucial part of their job is dispensing, which is much more than just transferring medicine from the shelf to your basket.
"When a pharmacist receives your prescription, there are a number of checks that need to be made to ensure that you receive the right medication to address your health condition," Priceline pharmacist Regina Cowie tells Mamamia.
"These checks include confirming that your name has been spelt correctly, that we have your address, date of birth, Medicare record and any concessional benefits recorded. We read the doctor’s medication choice and instructions and sometimes we may need to call the doctor to confirm this information. We double check the medication choice and dose according to your weight, gender, and other medical conditions, medicines and over the counter medicines including vitamins and minerals.
"We then look at your medical history to determine if there are any actual or potential medicine reactions. Again, this may require a call to the doctor to discuss."
These checks take time and skipping them for the sake of saving a few minutes can have literally life-threatening consequences.
"There are 230,000 people who go to hospital each year because of medication related problems, so there's a huge issue and I can tell you if pharmacists didn't exist that number would be even bigger," says Jackson.
"To drill it down into the time it takes reduces the role of pharmacists and the role they play in providing a vital check in our health system to ensure medication is safe for the individual and they know how to use it."
Listen: The difference between public and private healthcare. Post continues after audio.
Jackson argues on the flip side, you'd be concerned if any other medical consultation took just a few minutes.
"There are processes. We don't expect the GP to rush through the process, so we'd expect another health care professional to apply their same skills, four years of training at uni about medicines to what is being requested.
"For example a person might have an antibiotic prescription which was written six months ago and think it might work for now. Would we expect a pharmacist to dispense that? Probably not, and it's up to the pharmacist to decide whether that is safe.
He says that while the majority of the time, there are no problems with prescriptions but the pharmacist must apply the same vital checks to ensure people get the right medicine.
If timing is a concern for you, there are measures you can take to help reduce your wait time. If you go to the same pharmacist, they are more likely to get to know you well and understand your condition, medical history and care.
Many pharmacies also offer options to leave your scripts at the chemist, which is also a feature in Priceline Pharmacy's Sister Club Health Plus program.
"Your pharmacist can keep all of your current details and scripts on file for you, and can also send you timely script reminders. Your medicine will be ready and waiting for you, this ensures that your time in the pharmacy is always as efficient as possible," says Cowie.
Ultimately, it comes down to respect for an individual's role in society, whatever industry they are in.
"We should be respectful of our health care professionals and pharmacists have similar levels of stress as doctors and nurses and feel like they are not being recognised for their vital role in ensuring medicine is right for the individual," says Jackson.
Something to consider next time you're told your script might take a few minutes.
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