Phar­ma­cies add ser­vices to stay open

500 shut due to limit on fees

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ME­LANIE PETERS

A COLOUR­FUL range of beaded goods, vu­vze­las, T-shirts, hats, clothes, ash­trays and fridge mag­nets are ar­ranged in the shop win­dow as tourists bus­tle in and out. But this is no cu­rio shop, it’s a new-look phar­macy.

Olsen’s Phar­macy in Long Street, like many oth­ers across the city, has been forced to make many changes since the gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced the con­tro­ver­sial limit on dis­pens­ing fees four years ago.

“I had to think out of the box or else be forced to shut my phar­macy,” says owner Graeme Sarem­bock.

The gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced the limit on dis­pens­ing fees, aimed at mak­ing medicine more af­ford­able, but there was an out­cry from phar­ma­cists wor­ried about how they would sur­vive. They even took the gov­ern­ment to court over the is­sue but later opted for ne­go­ti­a­tion.

A re­port by the in­dus­try re­veals over 500 South African phar­ma­cies have since closed their doors and the gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to an­nounce higher dis­pens­ing fees shortly.

Mean­while, many phar­ma­cies have come up with novel ways to sur­vive. Sarem­bock said he and his wife Anita dipped into their sav­ings to ren­o­vate their phar­macy in Long Street.

“We started small with T-shirts and some cu­rios. We then went to a re­tail expo in Gaut­eng to get more ideas. We also spent a lot of time do­ing re­search on the in­ter­net. Now we get goods from KwaZulu-Natal and Swazi­land and have a wide va­ri­ety. Long Street is a good po­si­tion as many tourists go by. A lot more ho­tels are open­ing up around here too.”

He said they got more profit from tourism goods than the dis­pen­sary.

In other parts of Cape Town phar- macists have opened juice bars and even sell gro­ceries to stay afloat.

Phar­ma­cist Stephen White from For­est Glade Phar­macy in Tokai also sells air­time and elec­tric­ity and food stuffs, mostly health foods. White said many of the 544 phar­ma­cies that had closed were in ar­eas that were al­ready un­der-ser­viced.

“There have even been two phar­ma­cies that opened cof­fees shops to aug­ment their in­come, but those have closed down too. We want to de­liver health care. We don’t want to run a pizza par­lour with a dis­pen­sary in the back. We have a con­sti­tu­tional right

It has been dif­fi­cult. We don’t want to run a pizza par­lour with a dis­pen­sary in the back.

to make a liv­ing.”

In Novem­ber the Depart­ment of Health pub­lished an­other set of dis­pens­ing fees for pub­lic com­ment.

Lor­raine Os­man, head of pub­lic af­fairs at the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal So­ci­ety of South Africa, said the gov­ern­ment should an­nounce the new dis­pens­ing fees soon. The depart­ment has pro­posed that fees for medicine cost­ing less than R100 be­come a max­i­mum of R6 plus 36 per­cent of the price; for medicine be­tween R100 and R250, a max­i­mum of R32 plus 10 per­cent of the price; and for medicine cost­ing be­tween R250 and R1 000, a max­i­mum of R45 plus 5 per­cent.

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