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Ó Snodaigh Demands Harney Intervene in Methadone Crisis

15 October, 2007

Speaking from Leinster House today Sinn Féin TD and Community safety Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on Health Minister Mary Harney to immediately intervene in the pharmacy services crisis.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Minister Harney and the Health Service Executive cannot under estimate the fall out that will emerge from the current dispute.

"Whilst the HSE, Local Drug Taskforces, clinics and related agencies have in place contingency plans to deliver a continuation of methadone treatments to the many thousands of patients involved these 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 and 800 in the Ballyfermot area. It is just simply wrong that such a vulnerable group in society is to bear the full brunt of this dispute.

"Despite media reports this morning of 11 contingency centres dispensing the location of these clinics has not been made available, even on request. In addition the help line being made available to methadone patients is only operational from 10am to 5pm.

"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.

"We must also remember that the withdrawal of methadone services is just the beginning of number of actions pharmacies throughout Ireland intend taking. These include a refusal to facilitate the Drug Payment Scheme on November 1st and to withdraw from the Medical Card Scheme on December 1st.

"It is unacceptable that Health Minister Harney has let the situation deteriorate to the current crisis. Leadership, compassion and constructive dialogue are now needed. Sinn Féin has been calling on the Minister for two weeks now to intervene in this dispute. The Minister must stop shirking from her responsibilities and resolve this crisis." CRÍOCH

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