Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Jerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
This matter is of critical importance to thousands of people, be they pensioners, people who are sick or patients young and old, so that they have access to their medication and there is an equitable restructuring of the pharmacy issue. We all support the important concept and the need to achieve value for money, but I call on the Minister to be equitable in what she does in this regard and to engage in negotiations with the pharmacists' unions.
This is an important issue that has not gone away. It has been simmering and now it has come to the surface with the threat of thousands of pharmacists resigning from the scheme. The value for money could be phased in, as the Dorgan report recommended. What are the contingency plans if the pharmacists withdraw their services?
I have great sympathy for the smaller pharmacies the staff of which are providing a service and working hard. Giving the taxpayer and consumer value for money is fine, but the Minister for Health and Children is driving a coach and four through everybody involved.
There are concerns that the Minister's decision will have a negative impact on both patients and, importantly, jobs in the industry. The 33% decrease in payments that pharmacists receive from the HSE could have a negative impact on jobs, with the closure of many community pharmacists reducing choice and service for patients.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach and I have met with pharmacists and raised these issues with them. As I am sharing time with Senator Ross, I will conclude by saying we need to look at all of the options, including generic substitution for branded drugs. There is greater clarity and flexibility needed from the Minister. We must remember that this is about patients, people who need medication, and jobs.