Funding cuts will put independent pharmacies on "death watch"

Independent Pharmacists to Send Message to McGuinty Government with "Million Patient Campaign"

TORONTO, May 27 /CNW/ - Independent pharmacists have launched a new effort to sharpen the focus on the impact the McGuinty government's massive funding cuts will have on local independent pharmacies. Independents are concerned that their fates are being overlooked, as the government claims to be battling with chain drug stores.

The new effort includes an education campaign that will see 1,200 independent pharmacists explain the effects the cuts will have to more than one million Ontario patients. Responsibility for impending service reductions and new service charges to patients will be placed squarely on the McGuinty government.

This week, members of the Independent Pharmacists Association of Ontario (IPO) have begun displaying new in-store advertising materials titled "Dalton McGuinty is putting Ontario's independent pharmacies under the knife". Pharmacists and staff are explaining to all patients and customers who enter the stores that small neighbourhood pharmacies will be forced to close if the funding they receive is cut. The new IPO campaign is in addition to the association's continuing role with the broader Ontario's Community Pharmacies coalition, of which it was a founding member.

"Every time the government promotes their cuts, they say they are fighting with so-called 'big pharmacy', but that's not true," said Emad Nossier, a pharmacist-owner and Board member of IPO. "More than half of Ontario's pharmacies are owner-operated independents, and we are the ones who will be forced out of business - not the big chains. Independents in this province will be on a death watch."

"My pharmacy does not sell merchandise," said Nossier. "We can't change our business model to compensate for cuts to funding that allows us to provide health care services. It's very simple: if the government proceeds with their planned cuts without fully replacing the lost funding through some other mechanism, layoffs will begin at independent pharmacies, followed by store closures."

IPO members will be urging their patients to communicate their concerns directly to the Premier, the Minister of Health and Liberal MPPs. They will also be holding meetings with community organizations that support local health care and small businesses, and will continue their efforts until the next Ontario election in October 2011.

"The government hasn't listened to reason, when we explained that you can't expect us to be able to continue to deliver the same quality of care when you cut $300,000 a year from an independent pharmacy," said Nossier. "They refused to listen when we offered a better alternative that would reduce drug costs, yet still keep small pharmacies viable. So we have to try to make them listen by talking directly to our patients, as voters in the next election."

For many patients, their independent pharmacies are irreplaceable community health care centres, said Ben Shenouda, President of IPO and a pharmacist-owner in Brampton. "Some of my patients who are seniors don't speak English very well, so we spend a great deal of time helping them fill out forms and explaining how they can get access to health care," said Shenouda. "If my pharmacy and others like it go out of business, who is going to care for my patients? That's what I'd like to ask Dalton McGuinty. That's what a million patients and voters will be asking McGuinty."

The Independent Pharmacists Association of Ontario (IPO) is a non-profit organization that was created to represent and advocate on behalf of Ontario's independent community pharmacists. IPO is a partner in the Ontario's Community Pharmacies coalition.

SOURCE INDEPENDENT PHARMACISTS ASSOCIATION OF ONTARIO (IPO)

For further information: For further information: Nancy Zorzi, Nancy Zorzi Communications Inc., (p) (416) 484-1652, (c) (647) 999-2172, nancyzorzi@yahoo.ca

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INDEPENDENT PHARMACISTS ASSOCIATION OF ONTARIO (IPO)

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