Pharmacists to stop giving drugs to card holders

PHARMACISTS in Cork are to cease dispensing drugs to medical card holders after December 1.

This will be in protest at the recent decision by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to cut the prices it pays them for drugs they administer under the scheme.

Pharmacists feel they have “been left with no other choice” after the HSE made the decision without consulting the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) and without carrying out any economic impact assessment into how the decision would affect those in the industry.

At a meeting in the Ambassador Hotel in Cork last Thursday night, more than 140 pharmacists agreed to stop releasing drugs under the General Medical Scheme if the HSE does not reverse its decision.

If the pharmacists decide to withdraw the service, thousands of card holders in Cork will be affected as they will no longer be able to get their prescription medication from their local pharmacy.

One Cork pharmacy owner yesterday told the Irish Examiner that pharmacists took the decision “in desperation” after the HSE decided to slash payments.

“It’s an awful situation for us to be in; we don’t want to affect our customers, but what the HSE are effectively saying to us is that we should give the customer their medication, pay our staff to dispense it and then they’ll pay us 92% of what the drugs cost us in the first place — no business could operate like that,” said the owner.

IPU president Michael Guckian expects many of the organisation’s rural members to experience severe hardship as a result of the HSE’s decision.

“Pharmacy is one part of the health service that is working well. However, these changes will devastate smaller pharmacies and those located in rural and marginalised locations,” he said.

A similar meeting to last Thursday’s, on a national level, is expected to be held later this week, with other counties expected to follow the example of pharmacists in Cork.

Pharmacists in Kerry were last night rumoured to have also backed a plan to withdraw from the medical card scheme.

Meanwhile, the HSE yesterday said it would not be commenting on the decision by Cork pharmacists until its officials had met with representatives of the IPU tomorrow.

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