Australian Prescriber staff facing Xmas layoff

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The entire editorial team will be made redundant in December, with no guarantee of being rehired under the new ownership.

The government has still not made good on its promise to throw independent journal Australian Prescriber a last-minute lifeline, with all staff set to be out of a job come 1 January.

Funding for the journal’s publisher, NPS MedicineWise, was unexpectedly cut earlier this year as a budget measure.

In October, the government announced that it would open a competitive tender to find a new publisher for Australian Prescriber.

This has not yet materialised.

In a piece published today, editor-in-chief Dr John Dowden said the future of the publication remains unclear.

“Sadly, it is known that the entire editorial team will be made redundant, along with all the other employees of NPS MedicineWise, before Christmas,” he said.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Katherine Burchfield said the tender should open early next year.

“The department is still planning to put out a tender, but they’ve just been delayed,” she said.

“While it is disappointing that there isn’t going to be a direct handover and complete continuity, it’s still our hope that the tender will go out and they’ll find a new publisher in the new year.”

There’s no guarantee that any of the current Australian Prescriber staff will be rehired if the publication is saved.

Dr Burchfield said she had hoped a new publisher would try to retain the journal’s editorial and publishing team, but the process was more complicated now that the organisation was being shut down before a buyer is found.

“It’ll be up to the individual staff as to what they do, but obviously … they may not have the luxury of hanging around until a new publisher is in place,” she said.

Australian Prescriber has been continuously published since 1975 and was originally run by the Department of Health.

In 2002, it moved to NPS MedicineWise.

“It had a really nice home at NPS MedicineWise, because we could cross-fertilise the publication with the work that we were doing in other programs,” Dr Burchfield said.

Australian Prescriber would feed the other programs and the other programs would feed Australian Prescriber.

“No matter who takes it on, there’s not going to be that easy synergy there.”

After NPS MedicineWise funding was pulled, the Australian Prescriber team organised an open letter to Health Minister Mark Butler, signed by more than 8000 health professionals.

As a testament to the hope that a new publisher will be found shortly, journal staff have already prepared articles for publication in 2023.

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