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Pharmacists want a guaranteed profit while healthcare funds owe them money

24 December 2010 / 13:12:46  GRReporter
3353 reads

Victoria Mindova


"The minimum guaranteed profit is needed because health insurance funds have never fully paid their obligations to the pharmacies, and whoever told you that pharmacists belong to the closed professions lied to you." This explanation was given by the President of the Union of pharmacists in Athens Costas Lorandos, who presented exclusive for GRReporter the views of pharmacists on the issue of liberalization of closed professions, among which is also theirs. According to him the pharmaceutical profession is absolutely free and the rules by which it is exercised can not be taken as limitations.

"Until now, health insurance funds owe the pharmacists around 400 million euros. We all take loans and owe money to the banks so that we can be fair to our suppliers and pharmaceutical companies although the state is not doing its job", complained Costas Lorandos insisting that the minimum guaranteed level of profit is the only incentive that supports the life of the currently open pharmacies. Currently the funds have delayed the payments to a large part of the Athenian pharmacies for more than eight months, said Lorandos. He stressed that their turnover is mainly based on drugs prescribed through health care paths. The incorrect attitude of the state towards the payment of its debts to pharmacies in the country have the worst effect on the patients themselves.

We asked Costas Lorandos: "If, after the reforms in the healthcare sector insurance funds begin to pay their debts to the pharmacies to time, you as a Union would no longer insist on maintaining the minimum guaranteed profit, am I correct?". Answer: "Yes, we will not insist, but according to me there is no perspective for the health insurance funds to change their way of work anytime soon."

 "Every graduate pharmacist can open a pharmacy, there are no restrictions," he said. By law, however, the rule is that for every 1500 people there may only be one pharmacy. Lorandos challenged that assertion, saying that in Greece on average one pharmacy can answer the needs of around 1000 people. "This is an extremely large number per capita of the population and compared with other European cities, where one pharmacy can be opened to serve the needs of every 4000 or 5000 people". According to him the number of pharmacies in big cities is more than sufficient and any further increase in their number will not contribute in any way to the improvement of competitiveness. Lorandos is certain that if there is a need for new pharmacies it is in smaller towns and remote areas. The state should take care of those places where the population has no access to drugs rather than indiscriminately handing out permits.

Another well known problem that the Greek society faces is related to the working hours of pharmacies. It is defined by law and on Monday and Wednesday they should be open until three o'clock in the afternoon and in the other week days they are closed between three and five o'clock in the afternoon. Saturday and Sunday are days off for pharmacists and on duty there are only about 20% of the pharmacies in each populated area. This week the Minister of Healthcare Andreas Loverdos proposed for a public discussion the suggestion that all pharmacies in the country work voluntarily on a Saturday afternoon until three o’clock, like the working hours of other retail sites. The proposal for additional working hours over the weekend is definitely of a good will nature and if adopted it will apply only to those who wish to work.

"I see no reason for the pharmacies to operate on Saturday, even voluntarily, since doctors in the health insurance funds do not work", answered to the proposal the head of the Union of Athenian pharmacists. "Provided that there is nobody to issue prescriptions, the pharmacies do not need to be open," concluded the pharmacist. According to him, since doctors from public and private healthcare are not forced to work on Saturdays, it makes no sense for the pharmacies to be open on weekends as well.

Another proposal of the Ministry, which the union rejected was that related to the introduction of pharmacies in the supermarkets. Such an idea is not well thought through and effectively unenforceable said Lorandos. According to him supermarkets are not a suitable environment for sick people to be queuing for medicines, and even if there is a separate room, these pharmacies can not participate in the night duties program of the Union. Changes in the sector are generally not well taken, but the Union warned that in the case of a failure to solve the most pressing problem with the payment by health insurance funds debts, pharmacists in the country will resort to active strike actions.

Tags: Economy markets pharmacies minimum guaranteed profit Greece labour market
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