House of Assembly: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Women's Health Services

S.E. ANDREWS (Gibson) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Can the minister update the house on state government initiatives to increase access to women's health services through community pharmacies?

The Hon. C.J. PICTON (Kaurna—Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:56): I thank the member for Gibson for her excellent question and note her participation in the recent select committee of this house, which was chaired by the member for Badcoe, looking at this specific issue in relation to urinary tract infections and how women can be better supported, particularly through pharmacies.

Following that inquiry of the house, the government has taken action to put in place new regulations that have enabled community pharmacies to provide assistance for women with UTIs in the community who otherwise would have faced long waits to get into a GP or who in many cases are faced, unfortunately, with having to go to an emergency department. That's been in place from 1 March this year, with women aged 18 to 65 with an uncomplicated UTI able to go directly to their community pharmacy.

I am pleased to report to the house that in just the first month of operation of that new scheme, 600 women have been able to go to the local pharmacy to get support for their UTI. This means women have been able to access care without having to wait for a GP, without having to go to an emergency department. That's really excellent news for women across South Australia. We expect that that will grow and grow as we see more pharmacies and pharmacists take part in the program and as awareness of this avenue grows in the community.

Already, 860 pharmacists have completed the training and another 160 have enrolled, and some 40 per cent of pharmacies have now provided one service already from some 200 sites across the state. This is an excellent element. It is not the only element in which we are helping to access care through pharmacies. Of course, we now have in place 24/7 pharmacies in three sites across metropolitan Adelaide. The first one is operating in Norwood, which I know is very close to the heart of the member for Dunstan, and this has seen 3,000 customers come through in its first two months of operation.

We have now had the other two sites, nearby in the member for Gibson's and the member for Elder's electorates, at Clovelly Park. There is also one in my colleague the Minister for Tourism's electorate and nearby in the member for King's electorate at Saints Shopping centre. The one at Clovelly Park has had 2,790 extra customers coming through in those hours in which it would have otherwise been closed, and Saints has seen 6,401 customers come through in the times that it otherwise would have been closed. So 12,000 customers have been seen when it otherwise would have been closed, which is excellent news for the community. I understand they have also dispensed 5,154 scripts and taken 1,154 phone calls for people seeking pharmacist help, so it is another way that people are able to access care other than having to go to an emergency department.

There is more to come, I am glad to say, in that we are about to launch the next element of that work which is enabling women to be able to get access to replenishing the pill through their pharmacies without having to go via the GP as well. So I can update the house that from 6 May next month, eligible women will be able to visit participating pharmacies for access for resupply of the oral contraceptive pill without needing to see a doctor for the script.

This service will be available to women 17 to 50 who have been supplied or prescribed an approved contraceptive by a registered medical provider. Women 17 to 40 will be able to access one pack at a time through their pharmacist up to a maximum of 12 months' supply. Women 41 to 50 can access one pack without a new script, or being referred to their GP or other authorised prescribing professional for a review. The exact details of this have come out of the expert review that we have had looking at the mechanism of that scheme. We think this will be a great opportunity for women to access more care through their local pharmacy.