Local pharmacists have expressed their deep concern over inaccuracies in a list published by the HSE of those pharmacies participating in the Community Drugs Scheme.
Several pharmacies which had stated their intention to withdraw from dispensing medicines under the Medical Card and other State drugs schemes from August 1, have nonetheless appeared this week on the HSE list of pharmacies which will continue to operate under the schemes.
A number of Athlone pharmacists contacted the Advertiser this week to vent their anger at the “gross inaccuracies” on the list, after their names appeared on the list despite their notice to the HSE.
Many of them still intend to close their doors to the public from August 1, following their decision to cease dispensing medicines on that date.
Mullingar pharmacist and president of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU ), Liz Hoctor says that the inaccuracies in the list place a huge question mark over the credibility of the HSE.
“It is clear the list published in (Tuesday’s ) papers is a smokescreen and confirms the union’s view that the HSE has no workable contingency plan. In accordance with our information the list totally overstates the number of pharmacies who are likely to continue providing services from August next. The number of pharmacies appears to be more of the order of 400 rather than the 800 odd claimed by the HSE,” she said.
The HSE contingency plan clearly compromises patient care and safety, according to Ms Hoctor.
“The onus is on the Minister to provide a safe and workable alternative to patients to access their medicines, as she and the HSE assured us would be done. If the HSE cannot get a list of pharmacies right how can they dispense medicines safely to people all over the country?
“This is a desperate attempt by a desperate organisation to hide the fact that they do not have a workable plan capable of meeting the needs of patients. Pharmacists have absolutely no faith in the contingency plan put in place by the HSE. We are extremely worried about the ability of the plan to deliver even a basic pharmacy service,” said Ms Hoctor.
Earlier this month, a total of 14 Westmeath pharmacists gave the HSE 30 days notice of their intention to withdraw from community drug schemes, including the Medical Card Scheme and the Drugs Payments Scheme.
The move followed the decision of the Minister for Health to cut payments to pharmacists for providing medicines to patients on the community drug schemes by 34 per cent.
However, in recent days the IPU head office has been inundated with calls from angry pharmacists whose names are on the list despite the fact that they have given notice of their intention to withdraw.
Given the inaccuracies in the list, the IPU has decided to put its list of over 1,100 pharmacies who informed the HSE that they will not be participating in community drug schemes, back up on its website.