Still all quiet

The silence in pharmacy circles has been deafening. I think that at this point we are awaiting developments both with Dorgan and the High Court case. Also I think that most pharmacists are spending more time in the pharmacy looking to see where they can make cuts. For me this has happened through natural wastage. This time last year I had three people employed full time. Now it is two. I was planning to take at least two days off every month or four half days. That’s out the window as I am returning to taking time off only when it is urgently needed.

It has been pointed out before that the €100M that the HSE hopes to save would in fact be budget neutral as far as the government is concerned. A lower PAYE and tax take from pharmacy with similar knock on effects through the supply chain. Those let go from pharmacy will probably take longer to find alternative employment. Indeed one of the biggest current costs on the HSE at present is the higher cost of more medical cards for the rising numbers on the dole.

Marie Hogan had a good piece in last Tuesday’s Irish Times. Drug costs are rising because more patients are being treated in the community, getting their meds through their local pharmacy. There is no corresponding saving in hospital costs as there is still a huge amount of people awaiting treatment. Blaming pharmacists on the increased drug bill is like blaming umbrella manufacturers because it is raining.

The Government and the HSE set (anti-competitively) the price of drugs with the pharma industry. They then ask pharmacists to help look after formerly hospital bound patients in the community. And then they complain when drug costs to pharmacists rise. I think that certain sections of the HSE would prefer that some patients with costly diseases would go into a corner and quietly and cheaply die. Some of their actions in running the HSE certainly seem to be going in this direction. Any body fancy a job as a radiologist or testing smears?

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Who the hell do the PSI think they are?

Along with most pharmacies I got a letter from the PSI today. They are effectively demanding my attendance at a meeting to explain the new pharmacy regulations. It is using the same language that you would use with a child.

PSI's letter 9th May 2008

I cannot but think if this is so dam important why don’t they arrange this meeting during normal hours and pay for locums. I work 60 hours per week in my pharmacy and now they want me to give up my family time to sit and be lectured by them on new regulations.

And what’s this and the use of codes. It was written else where that it looks like they have read too many spy novels. do they want us to show up wearing a pink carnation in our lapels carrying a folded copy of the Irish Times.

I for one will be unable to attend as it clashes with my religious obligations, I don’t believe in bullshit! If the PSI want reasonable reply then they might start by using reasonable language.

All quiet for now.

I can’t quite say that peace has broken out. It’s more like a cease fire or truce to allow talks to take place. I for one was disappointed with the outcome of these talks. Yes there were some positives but at the end of the day I am down the 8.2% for the next 3 months at least. To put this in context am down more than my monthly wages bill. I still have to pay my staff, my rent, my wholesalers and repay my loans. And I expect that many of my colleagues are in the same position. We gave the minister a “Get Out Of Jail Free” © card and she gave us a promise. I don’t know about you but I don’t value HSE or DoH&C promises much higher than spit. And even if (and it’s a big if) Dorgan reports anything vaguely in our favour there is nothing to say that the HSE have to agree. They are masters of delay and obstruction. Dorgan may report at the end of May but there is no guarantee that the HSE will pay up in June, either early or late. There is no guarantee that they will even have the mechanisms in place to pay us in anything resembling a timely manner.

So what have we got. The DoH&C and the HSE recognises the IPU’s right to negotiate. big deal, this is a universal human right and it is the the GMS contract anyway. They have a mechanism to get around the Competition Act barrier. Another big deal, this was always a smoke and mirrors exercise as well. And to round it off we have independent arbitrator with binding arbitration. I did not hear anything about a time scale for arbitration or implementation of arbitration.

I don’t want to be too down on the IPU, there has been a lot of selfless work and time put in by individuals who like myself have their own pharmacies to run. I THANK THEM FOR THIS. I just feel that they should have held out for stronger assurances.

To continue the ceasefire analogy. We’ve stopped shooting at each other but the wounded independent pharmacists are lying bleeding and dying in the middle of the battlefield. Bleeding cash with no guarantee of a replacement transfusion when this is over. I wonder what my staff, wholesalers and banks will say when I go to them and say can you wait until the end of June or July, the HSE has promised me something then.

I for one have taken down the posters out of the window but I’m still keeping a smaller one on the counter. I’m still giving out the leaflets. The war is still on and it will be along time before we are sitting together around the camp fire singing kumbya!