Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
I very much welcome the Minister's comments. It is a very good day for the Seanad that this amendment has been accepted in principle. Pharmaceutical assistants have done great work and there has never been any dissatisfaction expressed in them. I do not see any reason they should reduce their hours. There are approximately 300 pharmaceutical assistants in the country, predominantly women in their mid-50s and upwards. If the position remained unaltered, a temporary absence would be limited to one hour, which is absolutely ridiculous and a complete and utter nonsense. It would make quite a large number of these 300 people unemployed.
I will put on the record a couple of statements from people who have written to me, as they will let the Minister know how these people feel. One states:
Please stand by us as I feel we need all the help we can get. We are all pushing on a bit but do not deserve to be dumped on the rubbish heap at this stage of our lives.
That is the language used. It is "dumped on the rubbish heap a this stage of our lives.". Another states:
Since qualifying in 1984 I have worked all my life in a pharmacy as a qualified assistant, aware of the limitations of my certificate that I may act in the temporary absence of the pharmacist but that I could not own or manage a shop on my own account. It has been custom and practice for qualified assistants to cover pharmacists' absences ranging from annual holidays [which is a hell of a lot more than one hour] to sudden emergencies, illness, death etc. This is since our qualification came into being in 1890. "Temporary absence" remains undefined by statute to this day. When the Pharmacy Act 2007 was being proposed, we attended information meetings on the subject and we were reassured that where the Act reads "pharmacists" we could take it that it covered us as well but that did not happen. So now I have no job in pharmacy and no prospect of returning to work in a job that I love and have worked at all my life. At 60 years old I am one of the youngest qualified assistants and in a few short years the qualification will be no more as we retire.
I am very grateful to the Minister for the positive attitude he has shown towards this amendment and I look forward to it being passed.