Pharmacy contract a bitter pill

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2012
Sally Reynolds
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
VIEWS EXPRESSED: Riverton Pharmacy owner Sally Reynolds holds feedback forms from patients in Western Southland on the new pharmacy services agreement.

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Pharmacy owners in the south say they are being bullied into signing a new funding contract under the Southern District Health Board, despite their concerns.

Pharmacists across the region said yesterday that neither the health board nor the Health Ministry were taking responsibility for the late delivery of the national Pharmacy Services Agreement contract for the new model of care that begins on July 1.

The contract is expected to set out details of government funding to be paid to pharmacies.

Riverton Pharmacy owner Sally Reynolds said the model, based solely on dispensing fees, also had details specific to individual pharmacies.

It could leave pharmacies in smaller towns out of pocket, and her concerns had been heightened by vague and unreliable responses to questions about the contract.

Mrs Reynolds said she feared the new funding would mean the Tuatapere pharmacy depot service she provided would not be able to continue, leaving residents with a commute to Riverton, Otautau or Invercargill to get prescriptions.

She had been asking for the contract from the health board and the ministry since April.

She was told an individual agreement would be sent by mid-May. As of yesterday, she had seen only draft copies, she said.

Pharmacies were told the contract must be signed by June 26.

Meetings with the health board had left her with more questions. "I'm hugely stressed this is going ahead."

A time extension was required, Mrs Reynolds said.

Queenstown pharmacist Melissa Copland said Wakatipu Basin pharmacists were also waiting. They had been told if the contract was not signed, the pharmacy would not receive funding.

A ministry spokesperson said it was the health board that should respond to questions about the contract.

Yesterday, health board portfolio manager Adele Knowles said a generic contract was available online for pharmacists.

If the June 26 deadline was not met, pharmacists had until July 23 to consider and sign the contract, she said.

Dr Copland said the July extension would still mean that if pharmacies had not signed the contract by the end of this month, they would not be under any contract for most of next month and there was no guarantee of funding for prescriptions.

"There's no security for us. We'd just be hoping the DHB [district health board] might pay."

The online document was "full of typos and not well put together", and pharmacies needed to negotiate individual contracts.

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"These are frankly just bullying tactics from the DHB, with this extremely tight deadline. We can't sign a contract that we can't adhere to," Dr Copland said.

- The Southland Times

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