Lib­er­als cap­i­tal­ize on phar­macy dis­pute

Leader prom­ises to ne­go­ti­ate di­rectly with independent phar­macy own­ers


Lib­eral Leader Kevin Ayl­ward and the party’s can­di­date in Trinity-Bay de Verde, Barry Snow, ap­pears to have scored some points on the con­tentious is­sue that is cur­rently pit­ting independent phar­macy own­ers against the provin­cial govern­ment.

Dur­ing a rally out­side Tri-Con Phar­macy in Old Per­li­can on Thurs­day, Sept. 29, some 40-plus peo­ple, in­clud­ing four phar­ma­cists from three independent phar­ma­cies in the district, gath­ered to vent their anger at in­cum­bent MHA Char­lene John­son and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment.

“I hope Barry Snow gets in so we can keep our drug­store,” Mary Ann O’Rielly of Bay de Verde shouted dur­ing the rally.

Ayl­ward won sup­port from the crowd by promis­ing to ne­go­ti­ate di­rectly with the Coun­cil of Independent Com­mu­nity Phar­macy Own­ers (CICPO), some­thing the cur­rent govern­ment has re­fused to do.

“ They have whole range of ideas about how to re­form our phar­ma­care sys­tem. We would work with them as a part­ner,” Ayl­ward told re­porters.

“ We would rec­og­nize them as a sep­a­rate group and do a sep­a­rate ne­go­ti­a­tion and work to (de­liver) more ef­fi­cient ser­vices to the pub­lic.”

Cur­rent leg­is­la­tion per­mits the Phar­ma­cists As­so­ci­a­tion of New­found­land and Labrador (PANL) to ne­go­ti­ate fi­nan­cial con­tracts with govern­ment on be­half of the independent own­ers.

CICPO has launched le­gal ac­tion, seek­ing to have changes made to the New­found­land Phar­macy Act, ar­gu­ing that PANL is merely an ad­vo­cacy as­so­ci­a­tion for phar­ma­cists.

The dis­pute started mak­ing head­lines in late June, when CICPO gave 30 days no­tice of their in­tent to with­draw from the prov­ince’s pre­scrip­tion drug pro­gram, which sub­si­dizes drug costs for res­i­dents, based on in­come. The prov­ince re­sponded in late July by pass­ing leg­is­la­tion, in­creas­ing the no­tice to 120 days.

CICPO mem­bers have since aban­doned plans to with­draw from the pro­gram, but ten­sions re­main high, with sug­ges­tions that some independent phar­ma­cies may be forced to close un­less they can get a bet­ter deal with the govern­ment.

“ We have been paid the same money for 20 years,” said phar­ma­cist David Jenk­ins, co-owner of Tri-Con Phar­macy.

“If I was a cus­tomer out there us­ing independent phar­ma­cies, I’d be very con­cerned about hav­ing to travel 45 or 50 min­utes to Jerome Kennedy’s district to the big box stores to get my med­i­ca­tion. That’s very well might hap­pen if this goes through,” he added.

Jenk­ins said the Lib­eral prom­ise “of­fers hope” and “ we look for­ward to hope­fully hav­ing Barry Snow as our rep­re­sen­ta­tive in this district. He’s a real voice for ru­ral New­found­land.”

When asked about his po­lit­i­cal back­ground, Jenk­ins said he has voted PC in the last two elec­tions.

“Now it comes down to what I want to do for my pa­tients. Do I want to see them hav­ing to spend ex­tra money to get their med­i­ca­tion, trav­el­ling to Car­bon­ear, some­times de­cid­ing to do with­out be­cause they can’t af­ford the trip? I have to be a voice for my pa­tients, and for my­self.”

That sce­nario wor­ries 78-year-old Su­san Mans­field of Old Per­li­can

“I got no trans­porta­tion,” she said. “If I don’t have the money when I want to get drugs, they let me have it un­til my cheque

I haven’t heard a lot of it at the door. In my two weeks of knock­ing on doors, I prob­a­bly

got it three times.


Mans­field said such per­sonal ser­vice can­not be of­fered at “ big box” stores in larger cen­tres.

John­son was cam­paign­ing in Old Per­li­can at the time of the rally, and spoke to re­porters at a nearby restau­rant.

She said she had fa­cil­i­tated a meet­ing be­tween sev­eral independent phar­ma­cists from the re­gion and Health Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy, but it never took place.

“ They de­clined be­cause they wanted to bring along Sue Kel­land-Dyer (ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for CICPO), and that’s not what we of­fered. They’re try­ing to say I wouldn’t meet with them, but the of­fer was put out there and they de­clined,” John­son said.

John­son didn’t seem wor­ried that the is­sue would im­pact her at the polling booth on Oct. 11.

“I haven’t heard a lot of it at the door. In my two weeks of knock­ing on doors, I prob­a­bly got it three times,” she said.

John­son said the govern­ment can­not ne­go­ti­ate sep­a­rately with ru­ral phar­ma­cists, no more than it can with ru­ral doc­tors.

“ The re­al­ity is we need to work to­wards a for­mula that works for the phar­ma­cies, for tax­pay­ers and for govern­ment.”

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