Pharmacists call for reversal of cutbacks

Major cuts were imposed during recession
  • Deborah Condon

Pharmacists are calling for a reversal of fee cuts imposed on them by the Government during the recession.

According to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), payment rates to pharmacists were cut as part of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Act during the recession. This removed over €1.5 billion in revenues from the sector between 2009 and 2018, covering areas such as dispensing fees.

There are currently only 1,900 community pharmacists working in Ireland and the majority of pharmacies are family-owned businesses. The IPU noted that on average, family-run pharmacies saw their income from State schemes fall by one-third during this time.

"Our members continue to bear the scars of FEMPI and are getting tired of waiting around for a reversal of these cuts. Three years ago, the Government committed to starting the restoration of fees to pharmacists. To date, nothing has happened and we are sick of being treated like the Cinderella of the health system," commented IPU secretary general, Darragh O'Loughlin.

He pointed out that pharmacists are often the first port of call for patients in the Irish health service, but pharmacies need to be properly resourced if they are to provide the level of care that those patients require.

"While our members have doubled down on health service delivery over the years in the face of an increasingly difficult environment, the time has now come for renewed investment in pharmacy services. The failure by Government to do anything meaningful for pharmacy in Budget 2020 risks doing structural damage to the whole profession," Mr O'Loughlin insisted.

He said that community pharmacy "is no longer regarded as an attractive career option for young pharmacists", and this will have a knock-on effect on the sustainability of these services.

"The health system needs to be fit for purpose and pharmacy is an essential part of it. FEMPI cuts must be unwound in Budget 2020 to address the decade-long underfunding of the service," Mr O'Loughlin added.

Budget 2020 will be announced on October 8.


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