Northern Rivers pharmacist Neil Johnston%believes the move will free up GPs.
Northern Rivers pharmacist Neil Johnston%believes the move will free up GPs.

Chemists win right to issue sick certificates

By RACHEL AFFLICK rachel.afflick@northernstar.com.au NORTHERN Rivers pharmacists now have the power to issue workers with sick notes.

Doctors have concerns over the move, and the business community has labelled it ‘fraught with danger’.

However, Wollongbar Pharmacy owner Phillip Davis said it was a step forward and a reinforcement of the ‘teamwork’ approach to health care. “We’re not trying to replace doctors. We are trained to refer to doctors as the need arises,” he said.

“I see this as a positive and I believe people can benefit from this.”

Northern Rivers pharmacist Neil Johnston agreed, saying staff already assessed patients with minor ailments, like colds and flu, on a daily basis.

He said most importantly, the move would free up GPs – a fact highlighted by new statistics showing one-in-60 patients visit their doctor to get a certificate. However, GPs have reacted with caution.

Chair of the board of the Northern Rivers General Practice Network, Tony Lembke, said issuing medical certificates involved training, private examination space, and access to patients’ medical histories.

He doubted many pharmacists were in a position to take up the responsibility.

“Superficially it sounds really good, but when you look into it making a diagnosis requires lots of tools and training,” he said. “We believe pharmacists perform an important role, but it’s a somewhat different role than the one performed by GPs.”

Mark Willoughby, acting president of the Lismore Chamber of Commerce, said it put pharmacists in a compromising position.

He wondered what would stop a person going from chemist to chemist until they had a week’s worth of sick notes up their sleeve.



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