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Minister Harney Iron Lady Tactics Failing Rural Ireland

4 March, 2008

Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has condemned the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney for imposing cuts in payments to pharmacies under the Drugs Payment Scheme. Describing the Minister as an "Iron Lady" Senator Doherty challenged her to take the books from a rural pharmacy and show him how it could survive on the new level of payments.

Senator Doherty said:

"Minister Harney has recklessly refused to intervene in the ongoing dispute between the HSE and Irish Pharmacists Union (IPU). Despite her position as Minister of the Health for government she has stood idly by shirking her primary responsibility to patients and indeed pharmacy owners the length and breadth of the country.

"During today's Seanad debate I offered to provide Minister Harney with the audited accounts of a rural pharmacy challenging her to explain to me on review how such a business could stay in business under the terms of the new HSE community pharmacy contract. Nor surprisingly Minister Harney shirked my challenge on the basis that "I am not an expert on how to run a business'. Hardly a comforting response from a Minister responsible for a 16 billion euro health budget!

"Unless the HSE and Department of Health reverse the implementation of the new community pharmacy contracts there is no doubt that there will be a steady closure of rural and smaller pharmacies. I reminded the Minister that in my country alone 80% of patients who visit pharmacies hold medical cards.

"One part of our island has already suffered at the hands of an Iron lady, we don't need another one. Minister Harney needs to stop shirking her responsibilities and to begin exhibiting an understanding and indeed compassion on this serious issue.

"My young son is on medication that costs €40 at the local pharmacy. A couple of miles across the Border, in Derry the same medication costs €5? Who is responsible for this? This is not a 17% increase but is a result of prices set by the Department of Health and Children and manufacturers. I welcome that we are examining savings that can be made in the health service and are seeking to reduce the cost of medication to the general public. However, I ask the Minister to accept audited accounts from pharmacies and run the figures on what they are being offered." CRÍOCH

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