Pharmacist felt under pressure to sign

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2012

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The owner of Riverton Pharmacy said she signed an agreement with the Southern District Health Board this week only because she would have lost 50 per cent of her pharmacy's earnings had she refused.

Yesterday, Sally Reynolds said she believed she was one of many pharmacy owners in New Zealand who signed the Government's Pharmacy Services Agreement with their district health board "under duress".

The agreement - which Health Minister Tony Ryall announced was signed by all 947 pharmacy owners in New Zealand by the July 23 deadline - means that pharmacists will be paid a $1 service fee per patient instead of the $5.30 dispensing fee per prescription.

Last month Ms Reynolds was one of several pharmacists who told The Southland Times the agreement could leave pharmacies in smaller towns out of pocket. She said her concerns had been heightened by vague and unreliable responses to questions about the contract from the Ministry of Health and the health board.

She also 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.

Pharmacists have been told that payment would be based more on provision of support and advice to patients, to make better use of their clinical skills and expertise.

The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand says the agreement is the biggest change in services and funding the pharmacy profession has had in more than 50 years.

Pharmacy Guild executive chair Karen Crisp supported the agreement and said patients would be better recognised under the new agreement, which began its three-year transition to a "patient-focused payment model" on July 1.

Pharmacy owners were given until July 23 to either sign the agreement or face a non-renewal of their contract with the health board.

For Ms Reynolds, this would have meant a loss of about 50 per cent of her earnings, she said.

"I only signed at about six minutes to 5pm, and that was because my husband convinced me it would be business-suicide not to," she wrote in an email this week.

It was still unclear how the new funding would affect the Tuatapere dispensary that she was responsible for, she said yesterday.

"I've started to charge a courier fee from Riverton to Tuatapere [for medications]. Until this point I had resisted doing that."

Health board executive director of funding and finance Robert Mackway-Jones said in a statement that Ms Reynolds had been offered additional funding to secure services in Tuatapere.

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Discussion about the depot serving Tuatapere was ongoing, he said, and the board had gone through significant communication with pharmacy owners.

“The DHB is disappointed Ms Reynolds feels she was under duress."

Labour health spokesperson Maryan Street said pharmacists around the country had no alternative but to sign up to the agreement, because they were told it was the only way they would receive their transition payments.

- The Southland Times

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