Saturday, 16 May 2009

Petition to Protect Local Chemists

Comrades and neighbours, you are urged to sign the petition to Protect Local Chemists.

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 was approached by the large corporation Chemist Warehouse. They were eager to obtain a pharmacist's license so they could open up a branch in Sydney Road. They had a winning strategy. There are two pharmacies in this area. Whoever didn't sell their licence to Chemist Warehouse risked being run out of business by aggressive price cutting, backed by the resources of a large corporation. It was an offer they couldn't refuse.

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 country 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. We can make life a little more difficult for businesses like Chemist Warehouse by calling on the Australian Community Pharmacy Authority to prohibit operations by chains that put local businesses out of operation.

Local pharmacies play a critical role in community health and well-being. The Chemist Warehouse is a supermarket in disguise that places sales before service. Reserve these licenses for real pharmacies, not the Chemist Warehouse.

We can make a difference. Protect our neighbourhoods and our community's health. Please sign the petition.

Friday, 15 May 2009