NACCHO Aboriginal health news : Aboriginal’s in more remote areas would like to ‘take their medicine’


” Many Aboriginal people in remote areas access medicines through Section 100 arrangements but there is often insufficient professional pharmacist advice provided in these settings.

Better funding could allow greater access for these vulnerable Australians to professional pharmacy services the rest of us take for granted.”

The National Rural Health Alliance has published a Discussion Paper about the relatively poor access to medicines and pharmaceutical advice available to people in rural and remote areas.



Tim Kelly, Chairperson of the Alliance, described the situation as an important healthcare deficit which has received insufficient attention – but one that could be resolved with some simple and low-cost changes to programs and regulations.

“The new paper demonstrates the extent to which people in Australia’s rural and remote areas have poorer access to prescribed and non-prescribed medicines, less advice about the use of medicines, and poorer access to professional pharmacy services,” Dr Kelly said.

“As with so many other issues in the rural and remote health sector, there is a gradient of deficit as one moves from major cities through regional areas to remote and very remote places. Our Discussion Paper explores these issues and begins scoping for a project which could advise Australian governments on the best ways to improve the situation.”

The paper describes how and where people access medicines and considers the bottlenecks and inefficiencies that need to be addressed.

Reimbursement through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is the main means by which the Australian Government funds access to medicines and there should be action to bolster the supply of pharmacists (and the services they provide) to rural and remote areas of Australia. For instance there could be scholarships for pharmacy students from rural areas and increased incentives for rural pharmacists to provide training opportunities for pharmacy interns.

The Alliance proposes the investigation of ways to simplify medication prescribing and dispensing legislation and evaluate how such things as pharmacy outposts and telepharmacy can allow more equitable access. Small rural hospitals often do not have the capacity to employ a pharmacist, but they could if the role also provided professional support to local Aboriginal Health Services and professional medicines reviews in the community.

People living outside major cities also have poorer access to advice related to medicines, and this has implications for both the safety of patients and for the effectiveness of their medications. There should be better integration of various programs already in place for the provision of medicines and pharmaceutical advice. By prioritising Quality Use of Medicine initiatives, the government could better manage and reduce chronic disease in rural and remote areas.

Many Aboriginal people in remote areas access medicines through Section 100 arrangements but there is often insufficient professional pharmacist advice provided in these settings. Better funding could allow greater access for these vulnerable Australians to professional pharmacy services the rest of us take for granted.

The Alliance is calling for action on this issue and for further investigation of potential solutions. It is time to ensure that people in rural and remote Australia receive the same level of health care as those in the major cities, including access to medicines.

NACCHO funding alert:QUMAX registrations for the 2013-2014 are now open:closes April 12


 All services are invited to register to participate in the QUMAX Program.  The QUMAX (Quality Use of Medicines Maximised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples) Program provides services with funding to assist with improving the way medicines are used to maximise the benefits to the client.  

A range of initiatives may be eligible for funding under all or some of seven categories.

 Possible initiatives may include;-

  • the supply of delivery devices such as spacers for asthma medications,
  •  transport to collect medicines,
  • dose administration aids to help with compliance,
  • education tools such as Ibera software licences and medicines reference texts,
  • medication education for staff,
  • cultural training for pharmacists and pharmacy staff and
  • facilitation of medication reviews for clients.

The QUMAX program has been running since 2008 and has guaranteed funding to 30th June, 2015 under the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement. Administration of the program is shared between NACCHO, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Department of Health and Ageing.

Participation in QUMAX requires an annual registration process. This is done online using the NCN a custom built program for the administration of QUMAX. Patient numbers and the number of services registered are used to allocate the annual QUMAX budget.

Services will be notified of their budget and be asked to complete a workplan shortly after the close of registrations.

You may access the NCN through NACCHO’s website. Most services will already have staff that have been provided with usernames and passwords that enable them to logon and complete the registration form.

If you are new to the NCN or QUMAX please contact the QUMAX Program Manager at NACCHO to arrange access to the NCN. See contact details below

An alternative to accessing the NCN through the NACCHO website is to follow the link.

Registrations close on Friday 12th April, 2013 (late registrations will not be accepted).

To be eligible to register for the QUMAX program a service must meet the eligibility criteria:

• Employ a General Practitioner(s);

• RRMA classification of 1-5 (i.e. a non-remote location) (1991 Census Edition);

• Not currently eligible for the Section 100 Pharmacy Support Allowance Program;

• Agree to the QUMAX Program Specific Guidelines; and

• Be funded by OATSIH for the provision of primary healthcare services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Additional program specific details may be found at the following link.


If a service is auspiced the auspicing body must register and include the auspiced service’s patient numbers in their registration. A budget allocation will be made to the auspicing body.

If you have any queries or require further information about QUMAX or the registration process

Please email the QUMAX Program Manager

  or call 02 6246 9310