According to the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, many pharmacists are operating the medical card and drug payment systems at a loss, and some may withdraw from the schemes if their concerns aren’t addressed.
So far the HSE has refused to negotiate with the IPU — which represents 1,600 pharmacists across the country — but the union has put forward a proposal for talks and meetings are due to take place amongst members next week to decide on strategy.
A spokesperson for the IPU told the Irish Examiner yesterday that, while the union wouldn’t be taking any collective action regarding any withdrawal from the medical card or drug payment schemes, neither would it be discouraging members from taking such action.
“It would be an individual decision taken by each member. We wouldn’t be telling members what to do or what not to do. The situation would be very different in many different types of pharmacies.”
The pharmacists’ spokesperson said that, at a meeting of members about two weeks ago, many said that they were operating the state schemes “at a loss” and were “considering withdrawing” from them.
The Health Service Executive stated last December that it would not negotiate with the IPU on fees paid to pharmacists for delivery of the medical card and drugs payment services, as it claimed it would be in breach of competition law.
However, the IPU has put forward a proposal based on discussions between representatives of both sides, chaired by an independent facilitator, and has given the HSE 10 days to respond to that idea.
IPU president, Michael Guckian said: “The union is keen to resolve the matter amicably and believes that if there is goodwill on all sides, our proposal provides a basis for such an outcome that would comply with all legal and other concerns.”
He said that pharmacists across the country are “very unhappy” with the current situation. “The HSE has challenged their right to real representation by their trade union. It is also essential that a new contract be agreed that recognises the services that pharmacists provide.”
Meanwhile, Dublin, pharmacists who are involved in the methadone treatment scheme are meeting on Monday night to discuss their concerns, citing a “lack of support” from the HSE.