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Minister Harney's inaction on methadone crisis unacceptable - Ó Caoláin

15 October, 2007

Sinn Féin TD and Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described today’s withdrawal of methadone services by pharmacies due to a dispute with the HSE as yet another fallen pillar of the country’s health service structures.


Deputy Ó Caoláin said:


“It is incomprehensible to me that Health Minister Mary Harney has let this dispute escalate to the point that pharmacies are from today withdrawing methadone dispensing services to patients throughout Dublin.


“Minister Harney needs to instruct HSE Chief Brendan Drumm to commit to engaging in a continuous process with the IPU.  Constructive dialogue is the very least the people of Ireland should expect from government and its agencies.


“Dispensing of the medication through a pharmacy is a central part of the methadone programme as it facilitates a regular working life. Attending clinics will not be conducive to many patients’ programme of treatment. It is simply wrong that those most vulnerable in our society are bearing the brunt of this dispute.


“However this action is just the tip of the iceberg. Pharmacies throughout Ireland are to stop facilitating the Drug Payment Scheme on November 1st and after that to withdraw from the Medical Card Scheme on December 1st. Both actions will mean that patients will have to pay the full ‘private price’ for medication and seek a reimbursement from the HSE. Again those on low incomes will be hardest hit.


“Rural pharmacists have stated that under these new HSE payment measures they would no longer be able to remain in business. For example in Donegal where the unemployment rate is at 18% a pharmacy business may have 80% of its business reliant on medical card holders. Local rural communities have already suffered the loss of post offices and other amenities and are now in danger of losing a vital local health resource.


“If it a genuine cost savings measure the Minister is seeking then perhaps her department should review what the HSE is paying for branded pharmaceutical products. It is widely acknowledged that the purchasing of generic pharmaceutical products can deliver significant cost savings, especially with an annual spend on such products of €1.8 billion.


“I am again calling on Minister Harney to instruct the HSE to re-engage in the Shipsey process with the IPU.” CRÍOCH

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