Boots in George’s Street is now the only pharmacy in Waterford city filling prescriptions under the State Community Drugs Scheme.
And the chemist’s shop was inundated with dispensary requests from medical card holders on Tuesday morning, with many people queuing for up to an hour to get their prescription. Several customers were asked whether they could they wait until Wednesday or Thursday for their medication, so hectic is the demand at the Barronstrand Street shop for the Government scheme.
The HSE is understood to be in the process of establishing an alternative pharmacy dispensing unit at the Healthy Living Centre (on grounds of New Haughton Hospital) in New Ross but hundreds of sick people throughout the city will, until then, have to make do with the current interim measure.
The HSE and the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) continues to disagree about the number of pharmacies still filling prescriptions under the scheme, with a total of 18 listed on the HSE’s website for the Waterford area. However The Munster Express understands that Boots is the only pharmacy dispensing under the scheme in both Waterford and Tramore. The Mari Mina Pharmacies are operating in Ardmore and Lismore, as is Unicare Pharmacy in Dungarvan (to existing customers only), Dermot O’Neill Pharmacy in Portlaw and Healy’s Pharmacy in Cappoquin.
Case by case
Any other pharmacist who spoke to The Munster Express said they were dealing with each patient on a ‘case by case’ basis and assessing each situation on that individual’s needs. Ronan Mulligan, of Mulligan’s Pharmacies, whose family has been in the trade for more than 50 years, said the situation was an extremely difficult one for all concerned. “We trained in healthcare and feel a huge responsibility to our patients. Any pharmacist who is engaging in this withdrawal from the State scheme is not doing so lightly but we were left with no alternative. We have already lost 25% of our retail business over the last six months and now the Government wants us to take a 34% cut. Many pharmacies just won’t survive.”
Laverne McGuinness, National Director of the HSE’s Primary, Continuing and Community Care, has accused the IPU of misrepresenting the facts in relation to the numbers of pharmacies that have terminated their agreements, saying the union is deliberately using inaccurate information to create concern and worry in the minds of patients and clients.
The HSE has reiterated that the reduction in fees paid to pharmacies is necessary as the cost of almost €2billion to taxpayers to provide medicines under the State Drug Schemes is unsustainable.
The reduction in fees paid to pharmacists by a maximum of 24%, depending on their commercial relationship with their suppliers, will realise €133million in savings for the taxpayer, Ms McGuinness said.
Meanwhile pharmacists who have withdrawn from the State schemes could lose hundreds of thousands of euro in revenue if the HSE decides not to readmit them to the scheme. In a letter to pharmacists who have withdrawn from the schemes, Ms McGuinness last week warned they could face a “time delay” in processing applications into another community pharmacy contractor agreement. There are concerns that the HSE will not necessarily guarantee that all of those who have withdrawn from the schemes will be re-admitted, with individual pharmacies hence facing long-term losses of hundreds of thousands of euro a year if they are not able to gain readmission.
A full list of the participating pharmacies is available on the HSE website www.hse.ie and by phoning the HSE info line on 1850 24 1850. The HSE says these lists are based on the number of valid termination notices we have received from pharmacists.