Fourteen Westmeath pharmacies have announced their intention to withdraw from community drug schemes by August this year.
The 14 pharmacists, the majority based in Athlone and Mullingar, are among 1,000 nationwide who have written to the HSE giving 30 days notice of their intention to discontinue providing services on the schemes.
The decision means these pharmacies will cease dispensing medicines on behalf of the HSE under the Medical Card Scheme and the Drugs Payments Scheme effective from August 1.
The move follows the recent decision of the Minister for Health to cut payments to pharmacists for providing medicines and advice to patients on the community drugs schemes by 34 per cent.
Seven Athlone-based pharmacies are to withdraw from the schemes, including McGorisks’ three Athlone premises at John Broderick Street, The Crescent, and Athlone Towncentre; the McSharry pharmacies at Mardyke Street and Belhavel; Michelle Concannon at Mardyke Street; and Paul Cunningham at Dublin Road.
In Mullingar, Weirs Pharmacy at Market Square, Mullingar Pharmacy on Oliver Plunkett Street, and Anne Gray at Marlinstown Business Park have also announced their intention to discontinue the schemes, as have Robert Dolan’s two pharmacies in Moate, and John Gildea’s in Killucan and Kinnegad.
Elsewhere in the Midlands, 18 pharmacists in County Roscommon, 16 in Offaly, 10 in Longford, and 12 in Laois are also to withdraw from the scheme.
The Irish Pharmacy Union says the cuts implemented by the Minister for Health could result in up to 5,000 job losses, and is calling on the Minister for Health and Children to enter talks to avoid what they are calling a “medicines crisis”.
Mullingar pharmacist and president of the Irish Pharmacy Union, Liz Hoctor, said “I have no doubt that each pharmacist did not take this decision lightly. However, the Minister for Health and Children has dropped a bombshell on the pharmacists by imposing a 34 per cent cut in payments for providing medicines and advice to patients under the community drugs schemes. This cut is excessive and unsustainable. These cuts will damage pharmacy services, patient care and lead to up to 5,000 job losses.
“Pharmacists are calling on the Minister for Health and Children to engage with us immediately on how savings can be achieved without having a catastrophic impact on pharmacy services, patient care and employment.”
Some 1,521 pharmacists currently hold a contract with the HSE for the provision of medicines to patients on the community drugs schemes.