Pharmacists have hit out at State health chiefs claiming they are trying to cover up a looming crisis in the supply of medicine. The Irish Pharmacy Union has slammed a list published by the HSE of chemists who will continue to dispense drugs during a planned stoppage, claiming the list is inaccurate and includes one Galway pharmacy which closed three months ago.
The HSE published a list of some 800 stores which will continue to supply medical card holders and users of the Drugs Payment Scheme in national newspapers this week.
The IPU says some 1,100 pharmacies are expected to close this weekend in a bitter row with the Government over plans to cut fees.
Liz Hoctor, IPU president, claimed the HSE has not put a proper contingency plan in place to cover the gaps.
“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,” Ms Hoctor said.
“If the HSE cannot get a list of pharmacies right, how can they dispense medicines safely to people all over the country?”
The IPU has claimed that pharmacists around the country who have been included on the list have contacted it insisting they are listed in error, including one Galway pharmacy which has not been open for three months, and 27 around the country which say they will not participate in the scheme.
The IPU has now published its own list on its website www.ipu.ie “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,” Ms Hoctor said. “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.”
The IPU said the HSE has listed pharmacies which health chiefs believe did not give enough notice of the withdrawal of services.
The drug dispensing row centres over Health Minister Mary Harney’s attempts to reduce the cost of prescription medicine in Ireland.
Government health chiefs maintain the cost of dispensing under the Medical Card Scheme and the Drugs Payments Scheme have doubled since 2002 to over €1.6bn in 2008, with fees and other income earned by pharmacists also doubling.
The Minister maintained cuts to be imposed from August 1 will slash payments to pharmacists by 24 per cent, but stressed they will continue to earn high margins on prescriptions similar to what was paid in 2006 and 2007. The IPU claims the figures do not add up and that its members will be hit with an unsustainable 34 per cent cut.