I would like to raise awareness of the issue below to ensure that others with loved ones in aged care with similar arrangements with pharmacies take care to review the invoices which are received each month to ensure they are correct. I did also raise this issue with the aged care facility and the aged care commission. The feedback I received from the commission was that they could not take any action on the issue as the complaint was not against the aged care facility so it was outside their purview.
I’d like to be clear that this complaint is NOT about the aged care facility which my father was in, they provided good care.
This complaint is about the pharmacy who dispensed medication to my father. The pharmacy appear to have a single source supplier contract with several aged care residences. It appears that the aged care facility communicate directly with the pharmacy when medication is required and the pharmacy dispense and then deliver the medication. The pharmacy usually direct debits the cost of the medication directly from the client’s bank account on a monthly basis.
I was looking after my father’s affairs while he was in aged care so I declined to provide direct debit details and asked the pharmacy to provide me with monthly invoices. I am so glad I did.
Several invoices I received had charging discrepancies. These discrepancies were:
- charging up to three times the price of an item compared to if it was purchased from the same pharmacy bricks and mortar store
- not providing the cheaper PBS medication when it was available. This means the resident pays more for their medication and it takes them longer to reach the PBS safety net (the pharmacy explained this by saying that I had ticked a box to request non-PBS medication however the doctor had ticked a box requesting PBS medication and this discrepancy was never queried)
- not querying the doctor when an expensive non-PBS medication was selected which was not gender appropriate for the recipient, which would have been expected if a client walked into a bricks and mortar store
- not recording a monthly payment of $150 which had been paid and then accumulating the same amount on the next periods bill
The pharmacy has not demonstrated that they are acting in the best interests of vulnerable residents of the aged care home. They have not provided valid reasons as to why the invoicing discrepancies have been made or provided any assurances that they will ensure they do not happen again.
If similar invoicing issues are occurring with other clients in several facilities then the over-billing could be worth thousands of dollars per month.
The clients are vulnerable people, not all of whom have family advocates to ensure that they are being treated fairly.