‘Gross inaccuracies’ in HSE pharmacy list

Confusion surrounds pharmacy withdrawal

Sixteen Mayo pharmacies which were incorrectly listed on the HSE website, as pharmacies that will continue to administer under the Community Drug Scheme from Saturday, shows the utter “incompetence” of the HSE according to one irate local pharmacist. The pharmacist, who did not want to be named, was included in this incorrect list and condemned this “incredible” error on the HSE’s behalf which is only “adding to the public’s confusion” about where they can avail of their community drugs scheme medication.

Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser the pharmacist said that last Thursday he received a registered letter from the HSE acknowledging his continuation to support the HSE, even though this pharmacist had tendered his resignation. After sifting through the same post delivery the pharmacist then discovered a second letter from the HSE stating that the pharmacy would not supply drugs to medical card holders. According to the source, this dual letter scenario was replicated with pharmacies throughout the county. Even when the pharmacist contacted the HSE last Friday to inform it that he would not be partaking in the scheme, he was were still published in the HSE’s list.

From tomorrow (Saturday ) some patients in Mayo will face a return journey of up to 100 miles to collect prescriptions from the county’s three designated HSE collection points; St Mary’s Hospital, Castlebar, Ballina District Hospital, and Belmullet District Hospital.

Another Irish Pharmaceutical Union pharmacist, Noel Stenson from Achill, said there should only be three pharmacies listed who will continue to dispense drugs under the community drugs scheme: Boots Pharmacy, Westport; O’Brien’s Pharmacy, Claremorris; and Silverbridge Pharmacy, Claremorris. The Achill pharmacist said that the biggest concern about this “grossly inaccurate” list was the confusion imposed on patients. Mr Stenson said that if the public are still unsure of where to go they should speak to their local pharmacist or log onto www.ipu.ie and added that if the HSE cannot put a list together, then there is not much hope that its contingency plan will work.

This “cock-up” came almost a week after local IPU pharmacists attended an emergency meeting in Dublin. Mr Stenson, who attended the meeting, told the Mayo Advertiser that 1,200 to 1,400 pharmacists attended the three hour meeting, up to 70 per cent of Mayo pharmacists were represented, where the “passion”— deploring a 36 per cent reduction in the current level of payments to pharmacists, which are “utterly disproportionate and totally unsustainable”— was “palpable”.

Local TD, Fine Gael spokesperson on community, rural, and Gaeltacht affairs Michael Ring has also called on Mary Harney to urgently enter “meaningful negotiations” with the IPU.

“This is going to cause a huge amount of distress and upset to people,” Dep Ring said. “The union in its proposals for savings of €83 million would still preserve jobs in the industry.

“As I have stated many times in the past, this is one sector of the HSE which works very well, the pharmacy sector. Why is the Minister destroying it? I am again calling on the Minister to enter into meaningful negotiations with the union to try and divert this very serious dispute. In every dispute there has to be a time when people sit down and talk things out. This is going to cause a major inconvenience for people who are going to have to travel long distances now to get their medicine. I just hope that we won’t have a death because someone can’t get to the HSE centres which have been set up to cover for the withdrawal of the pharmacists services in this dispute. People have build up long standing relationships with their pharmacists and they trust them and get advice from them on various things, its will be a major blow especially to older people who may not be able to get around as easily to these centres.”

Mr Stenson, who sounded anxious about his staff and his patients’ future, explained that “no pharmacist in Mayo wants to be in this position”, and the HSE, “who have entered no negotiations”, even though “we are willing to negotiate” are using a “large sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

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