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HSE threat of legal action against pharmacies described as heavy handed

21 April, 2008

Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has revealed that the HSE has given pharmacies until 5:30pm today to confirm in writing that they will continue to dispense medication under the General Medical Scheme and the Drug Refund Scheme after May 1st.

Senator Doherty said the HSE has threatened legal action against those that do not respond by the stated deadline and described the tactics of the HSE as heavy handed and not conducive to resolving the ongoing dispute.

Speaking today he said, "As a result of Health Minister Mary Harney's decision to cut repayments to pharmacies under drug refund schemes many pharmacies have been left with little option but to withdraw from the scheme.

"In my own County forty out or fifty-two pharmacies have indicated that they will no longer be in a position to provide medication to the public. This will have a disastrous effect on the delivery of health in Donegal with the sick and elderly being worst effected.

"But it is not only my own county that will be affected. Over 500 pharmacies throughout the state intend to withdraw from these schemes as a result of the plans to cut repayments.

"A solicitor's letter on behalf of the HSE has been sent to those pharmacies that have indicated their intention to withdraw from these schemes on May 1st if plans to cut repayments proceed. In the letter the HSE has give a deadline of 5:30pm today for pharmacies to respond in writing signalling their intention to continue dispensing medicine under the schemes after May 1st. The HSE will apply to the High Court for an injunction against those who do not respond.

"These threats are heavy handed and not conducive to resolving the ongoing crisis. The treatment of pharmacies by the Department of Health and the HSE has been disgraceful. They have backed pharmacies into a corner and given them little option and now they are threatening legal action if they take the one of the few options left open to them.

"Minister Harney needs to step into this situation and ensure that the HSE sits down with the Irish Pharmacies Union in crisis talks to resolve this dispute. Her failure to intervene at previous crisis points has led to the current unacceptable position.

"If this dispute cannot be resolved then the Minister must bring forward contingency plans to ensure the continuation of provision of medication throughout the state." ENDS

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