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Ó Snodaigh demands Dept. Of Health intervene in HSE & IPU Dispute

12 October, 2007

Following yesterday's breakdown of informal talks between the HSE and Irish Pharmacist Union (IPU) with confirmation that pharmacists are to withdraw dispensing methadone as from Monday Sinn Féin Dublin TD and Community Safety Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said the fall out from this action cannot be under estimated.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Health Service Executive cannot under estimate the fall out that will emerge from their decision to pull out of the Shipsey negotiations process.

"Local Drug Taskforces, clinics and related agencies will have in place contingency plans to deliver a continuation of methadone treatments to the many thousands of patients involved.

"However these plans cannot substitute for the pharmacies service. Dispensing of the medication through a pharmacy is central part of a methadone programme as it facilitates a regular working life. Attending clinics will not be conducive to patients' programme of treatment.

"Methadone patients remain vulnerable to relapses therefore placing them in clinics for periods of time with addicts who may be predatory or in the early stages of their own treatment will in many cases be detrimental.

"There are approximately 8,500 methadone patients throughout the country, with 5,000 of these in Dublin. It is just simply wrong that such a vulnerable group in society is to bear the full brunt of this dispute.

"The HSE needs to commit to engaging in a continuous process with the IPU that will address the hardship on pharmacies whose clients' base is heavily reliant on the medical card scheme.

"Pharmacies also intend withdrawing the Drug Payment Scheme on November 1st and from the Medical Card Scheme on December 1st. Withdrawing from the medical card scheme will cause untold hardship to hundreds of thousands of low income earners who will simply not be able to afford their, or indeed their children's medication.

"By not administering the Drug Payment Scheme patients will have to pay the full private cost of their medication and seek a refund from the HSE under the Prompt Payments Act. Again those with high medical bills and low incomes above the medical card threshold will be most adversely affected.

"It is unacceptable that Health Minister Harney has let the situation deteriorate to the current crisis. Leadership, compassion and constructive dialogue are now needed. Minister Harney should stop shirking from her responsibilities." CRÍOCH

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