The Government has been accused of seeking to implement fresh cuts totalling €45 million to the funding of pharmacies on top of cuts introduced during the crash.
Fianna Fáil's deputy leader Dara Calleary said that after cuts of 33% to their income under financial emergency legislation, Health Minister Simon Harris has come along and said that the HSE had instructed pharmacists that as of January 1, there would be a range of cuts to their income, services and fees aside from the new contract.
“For many pharmacies, this range of cuts could take between €30,000 to €35,000 out of their income, which will lead to redundancies in pharmacies and lead to pharmacy closures in so many areas,” Mr Calleary said.
The Mayo TD said such cuts would undermine primary care services.
“Not only will dispensing fees will be reduced, the practice of phased dispensing, which is a safer and more efficient way of dispensing drugs, will be made unviable for many pharmacies putting patients in danger,” he said.
“Why is the Government doing an absolute U-turn on the very solemn commitments given by the Minister in May? Why is it proceeding to take €45m out of community pharmacy? Why is it targeting community pharmacists for these cuts unlike any other part of primary care?” he asked Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Mr Coveney said the Minister is committed to “root-and-branch review” of the pharmacy contract in 2020.
“Any publicly funded pharmacy service expansion should address unmet public health needs, improve access to existing public health services or provide better value for money in terms of patient outcomes. Accordingly, the decision to provide such services should be evidence-based and I hope Deputy Calleary would agree with that,” he said.
The fees to be set are determined by the Minister for Health with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure, he said.
Department officials have met with the Irish Pharmacy Union delegation on two occasions and a detailed submission was received from the Irish Pharmacy Union on November 8. This submission is being considered by the Department, Mr Coveney said.
Mr Calleary said that as late as October 10, Mr Harris gave very solemn commitments about reversing FEMPI cuts.
He told Kerry TD John Brassil, who was previously a pharmacist, that he would honour that.
The Minister said that "pharmacists are coming up with solutions and ideas".