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HSE has cut my payment and I can no longer guarantee quality service

I RECEIVED my HSE payment the other day — it was 9% (€6,500) down on what it should have been. This doesn’t reflect the full effect of the HSE cuts.

In my next monthly payment I reckon I will be down €7,000-€7,500.

With business costs rising, this level of revenue reduction is unsustainable and I won’t be able to guarantee quality service to my community in future.

This is the start of a campaign by HSE management to decimate the local community pharmacy network which it considers expendable in primary community healthcare in order to achieve short-term budgetary targets.

I have also received a letter from the local health manager reminding me of my ‘contractual obligations’ in terms of notice period. This is rich considering that over the past five years the Department of Health and the HSE have continually ignored and/or broken many parts of this contract.

1. Removal of regulations on new contracts in 2002. These were offered by the Department of Health if the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) dropped an application for a 42% rise in the medical card fee.

2. In return for dropping the fee rise demand, the department agreed to link the fees to any increases under the national pay agreements. These again have not been implemented — the latest example is the award due under the Towards 2016 agreement.

3. The Department of Health and the HSE have continually refused to enter arbitration with the IPU on areas of disagreement — such arbitration is included in the community pharmacy contract.

4. In 2002, the health minister ceased providing advance payments to contractors, as is provided for in our agreements. The IPU won a High Court case on this matter last year, but the HSE has appealed to the Supreme Court.

5. The contract was due for a review in 2001, but the department and the HSE have continually refused to participate in any such review.

6. The Department of Health and the HSE have not honoured the agreement reached with the IPU on the over-70s medical card scheme.

7. The HSE has refused to talk with the IPU since last December, as this crisis deepened.

8. The HSE is in the process of attempting to injunct me and many hundreds of pharmacists to provide services — even though Health Minister Mary Harney and HSE chief Brendan Drumm said last February they had contingencies in place from March to deal with any withdrawal of service. They were either misinformed by their officials or the minister deliberately misled her cabinet colleagues and the Oireachtas.

9. The HSE won’t talk with the IPU, but it is happy to waste vast amounts of public money in legal actions and proceedings.

10. The HSE has breached payment agreements as per the contract and must honour the contract in full — it can’t cherrypick certain parts of it.

11. The HSE isn’t interested in ‘value for money’, but in bullying, intimidation and control of independent healthcare contractors.

I consider that I no longer have a contract with the HSE, and so I am not bound by its terms.

I must do what is right for me, my staff and my community by standing up and saying ‘no’ to the HSE. What is needed now is real political leadership in resolving this needless crisis.

Health Minister Mary Harney will be responsible for any distress caused to the hundreds of thousands who will experience difficulties in accessing pharmacy services, but it seems she is more interested in talking tough than acting smart. This is a dangerous trait in someone with no practical experience in delivering vital services or understanding how it should be done.

Dan Ahern

Ahern’s Pharmacy

Farranfore

Killarney

Co Kerry


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