Pharmacies add services to stay open
500 shut due to limit on fees
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.