Independent pharmacies fear new charges, cuts and closures

New Ontario funding regulations 'catastrophic' for independent pharmacies

TORONTO, June 8 /CNW/ - Independent pharmacists reacted to the announcement of new Ontario pharmacy funding regulations with concern for their patients, as well as their own futures. The McGuinty government's announcement today of lower funding levels will make it impossible for pharmacists to continue to provide current levels of patient services.

"It can only be called catastrophic," said Ben Shenouda, president of the Independent Pharmacists Association of Ontario (IPO) and community pharmacist in Brampton. "Ontario already had the lowest overall funding for pharmacy care in Canada. This is a new low. It shows that this government is prepared to sacrifice small independent pharmacies in this province, offload health costs to seniors and other vulnerable patients, and accept reduced services and a lower standard of community health care."

"We expect that independent pharmacies will begin to shut down within the next few months," said Emad Nossier, a Board member of IPO and community pharmacist in Mississauga. "The average pharmacy was making between 4 and 5 per cent profit after expenses and taxes. The government's actions will now make almost all independents essentially insolvent. Each pharmacist-owner will have to make their own hard decisions, but in the short-term I know I'll have to begin charging patients for some health services, eliminating others, and laying off pharmacy staff. Within a few months, I'll have to consider whether I can stay in business at all. Most independents will be in the same situation."

No consultation by government

In the past 10 months, IPO and its partners in the Ontario's Community Pharmacies Coalition have repeatedly presented the government with proposals to reduce generic drug prices and eliminate the indirect funding known as "professional allowances", while ensuring a stable funding system that would allow small independent pharmacies to survive and keep providing patient care. The government never responded to those proposals.

For the two months prior to the announcement of today's regulations, IPO and the Coalition have been asking the government to sit down and work together on funding regulations that would avoid the worst damage to community pharmacy care in Ontario. The government never responded to these requests, and the new regulations were announced without consultation or discussion.

"The worst impact will be on the people who depend on us the most," said Shenouda. "It will hurt our patients who are seniors, who have chronic illnesses, who take multiple medications, and who do not speak English well and rely on their neighbourhood pharmacist to help them get access to health care. And it will hurt everyone who works for an independent pharmacy that now has to downsize and possibly go out of business."

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: Ben Shenouda, President, Independent Pharmacists Association of Ontario, Mobile: (416) 566-7258

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INDEPENDENT PHARMACISTS ASSOCIATION OF ONTARIO (IPO)

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