Minister Donnelly Leaving Pharmacies in the Dark

Minister Donnelly Leaving Pharmacies in the Dark

15-year pharmacy pay freeze impacting on patient care

Pharmacists accuse the Minister of blatant discrimination

Sunday 4th June 2023 – Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has been accused of ignoring Ireland’s 1,900 pharmacies and leaving them in the dark over their future funding. The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said the sector is rapidly losing faith in the Minister and his department’s ability to utilise pharmacies appropriately and is now campaigning for meaningful engagement to begin without delay.

Outlining the issues faced by Ireland’s pharmacies, Derek Reilly the newly appointed interim Secretary General of the IPU said, “Pharmacies have endured a 15 year long pay freeze at the hand of the government. They provide vital healthcare services on behalf of the state and while costs increase dramatically the fees received for doing this work are lower now than in 2009. We are reaching the point where the future viability of many pharmacies is coming into question.”

Minister Donnelly is legally obliged to review pharmacy services and funding by the end of June 2023. Mr Reilly said that despite this deadline there has been zero engagement from the Minister.

“The majority of pharmacies are small and family-owned businesses, they rely on state income. It is incredulous that less than a month before the Minister must decide on their future he has not engaged with the sector in any way.”

Mr Reilly accused the Minister of discriminating against the pharmacy profession. “Community Pharmacy is now the only healthcare sector that has had no pay restoration since the financial crisis. There is no reason for this blatant discrimination, and it needs to change.”

Goodwill among pharmacies has been eroded according to Mr Reilly. “Despite being ignored by the Minister community pharmacies have consistently delivered, they continue to provide a first-class service to patients. The accessibility of the pharmacy sector papers over the numerous cracks in the healthcare system. Nowhere was this more evident than during the COVID pandemic when pharmacists stood up to the plate with the delivery of vaccines. But patience is wearing thin over the lack of respect and as a result many pharmacists may not engage in new schemes or pharmacy services. This would be a tremendous, missed opportunity if not addressed.”

Mr Reilly explained that the IPU is calling for the introduction of a flat fee model of care being reimbursed at €6.50 per medicine. “In 2009, pharmacies were paid an average dispensing fee of €6.00. That was cut during the recession and has never been restored despite costs being significantly higher. But above all else right now we are calling on the Minister for Health to engage with community pharmacies to discuss fees before the June 30 deadline.”

“The unfortunate reality is that we are seeing an increasing number of pharmacies reducing hours and closing at weekends. Patients are experiencing longer wait times for prescription medicines to be dispensed. This government has been warned that this would happen but sadly continue to sleepwalk into a major crisis.”

Derek Reilly, interim Secretary General of the Irish Pharmacy Union concluded by urging Minister Donnelly to end the uncertainty and bring forward meaningful proposals for the future of the pharmacy sector. “The IPU and our members will meet the Minister at any place at any time. After years of being taken for granted, we expect this basic courtesy to be extended to a sector that has consistently delivered.”

Associated Files

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