Pharmacies are struggling with surging costs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Operating costs are increasing by an average of €5,000 a month because of Covid-19 social-distancing measures.
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) also reports that a quarter of pharmacies have reached their credit limit with medicine wholesalers and one in five pharmacies have laid off staff.
Further research released by the IPU showed that:
- Retail sales are down 36%
- One in five pharmacies have laid off staff while a further 38% will do so in the next three months
- Greatest costs relate to social distancing with over two thirds (68%) installing new counter screens to protect patients and staff
- 25% of surveyed pharmacies had reached their credit limit with medicine wholesalers
- 30% of respondents indicated that they had difficulty in ordering key medicines for patients due to reaching their credit limit.
The IPU survey revealed that the vast majority of pharmacies have been hit by significant extra costs to enable them to remain open and provide safe care. There were 190 responses to the survey representing 430 pharmacies.
Costs associated with social distancing are among the most significant, with over two thirds (68%) installing new counter screens to protect patients and staff.
Other significant costs included signage and security pods. When Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is included the average cost per pharmacy is €2,700 with some pharmacies spending up to €10,000.
The survey also revealed that staff costs are increasing by an average of €5,000 per month, equating to almost €10m per month on average across the sector.
75% of pharmacies anticipate having to make additional investments to reconfigure their premises or otherwise prepare for when the current restrictions on movement are lifted.
The surge in costs of doing business comes as retail sales in pharmacies have dropped dramatically due to Covid-19 restrictions, with sales falling on average 36% across the sector.
The IPU said this is putting considerable pressure on pharmacies, the majority of which are small family-run businesses.
The survey showed that one in five pharmacies have laid off staff, while another 38% will be forced to so in the next two to three months.
A quarter of pharmacies have reached their credit limit with medicine wholesalers while many more have had to defer payments to creditors, restructure loans, or expand overdraft facilities.
The IPU says this has impacted their ability to purchase further supplies. 30% of respondents indicated that they had difficulty in ordering key medicines for patients due to reaching their credit limit.
Speaking about the research findings, IPU Secretary General Darragh O’Loughlin said, “Pharmacists are at the frontline of our healthcare system.
As the various Covid-19 restrictions have been implemented, pharmacies have remained open to provide their communities with an uninterrupted supply of medicines, service and advice, but this has come at an unsustainable cost to many.
“Pharmacists are fully committed and none of them want to see staff laid off, but the reality is that there is little choice unless the situation changes. These pressures also could cause closures of some pharmacies, a situation that everyone wishes to avoid.”
Mr O’Loughlin said pharmacies will make every effort to remain open amid the difficult conditions but has warned that Government support is needed to maintain a full range of services and not reduce opening hours.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that he is looking at ways to support pharmacies in their work however the IPU reports that no support has yet been provided.