A city pharmacist is calling on the HSE to allow women with medical cards access the “morning-after” pill directly from their local pharmacies. It is believed that one in five women who seek this medication is a medical card holder.
Hitting out at what he termed discrimination against this group Dr Barra Nevin, the western chairperson of the Irish Pharmacy Union demanded that the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar take action on the issue.
Speaking at the IPU’s annual conference in Killarney at the weekend the Roscam-based pharmacist outlined that since 2011 pharmacists have been allowed to give this emergency contraception without a prescription to private patients.
“Following a confidential consultation we provide an excellent service to women in an emergency,”stated Dr Nevin.
“However, women who wish to obtain the pill free of charge must still wait to see their GP if they want to get it on the medical card.”
He described this situation as “intolerable” and “farcical”. This is particularly so at the weekend he said “when most women need it and local surgeries are closed.”
He added the position is even more “reckless” because this medicine is most effective taken within 24 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse and becomes less potent when taken later.
“Considering Ireland has one of the highest unwanted pregnancy rates in the world this made no health or social sense.”
The pharmacy representative said Minister Varadkar said he was committed to examining the issue.
“The minister for Health who was present stated that the matter will now receive his immediate attention and he will make a decision on the matter shortly.”
At the conclusion of the national conference in Co Kerry, pharmacists passed a motion calling on the HSE to put a mechanism in place “to make emergency hormonal contraception available to women with medical cards directly from the community pharmacy”.
Dr Nevin went on to say that the Minister expressed willingness also to engage with pharmacists to expand their role in the health service, allowing them to prescribe for minor ailments.