Ontario's Community Pharmacies Coalition Responds to Minister Matthews'
Letter Disparaging Ontario Pharmacists

TORONTO, April 12 /CNW/ - The Ontario Pharmacists' Association, the Independent Pharmacists of Ontario, and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores, independently and jointly, have written the following letter in response to the letter sent by Minister Deb Matthews, earlier today, attacking the reputation of Ontario pharmacists:

Letter Begins:

    April 12, 2010

    Honourable Deb Matthews,
    Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
    10th Floor, Hepburn Block
    80 Grosvenor St.
    Toronto, ON M7A 2C4
    by facsimile 416-326-1571

    Dear Minister Matthews,

    Ontario's approximately 7,500 community pharmacists work each and every
    day to provide front-line health care to Ontarians. We take exception to
    your letter, delivered earlier today, that is as inflammatory in tone, as
    it is inaccurate in facts. Your letter is hardly in keeping with our
    desire for an ongoing, respectful dialogue we are hoping to continue
    concerning the proposed cuts your government is initiating to front-line
    patient care in Ontario.

    Pharmacists are partners in the delivery of high-quality health care to
    the patients and communities we serve. That is why we worked so
    diligently with your Ministry for the past nine months on negotiations
    around changes to our sector - changes we all agree are necessary. This
    is why we have advocated so strongly for expanded scopes of practice for
    pharmacists that allow our front-line health providers to deliver the
    full breadth of services to our patients that our professional training
    allows. At no time in our nine months of intense discussion did you raise
    these issues about professional allowances with us. When a lack of
    compliance could be as little as an incorrect postal code we think your
    statements on this subject have been highly inaccurate and have sought to
    damage the reputation of our profession.

    Your letter is an unprecedented attack on the motivations of community
    pharmacists. By way of this response, we want to directly refute the
    inaccurate statements contained therein.

    The system of Professional Allowances in Ontario was designed by your
    government, are regulated by your government and audited by your
    government. We are of course interested in ensuring all comply, but your
    wholesale accusation of impropriety is little more than a smear.

    First, you continue to claim that pharmacists have 'abused' the system,
    which is a provocative and wholly offensive characterization of the
    compensation model pharmacies rely upon to pay staff, overhead, and
    extend hours beyond the normal work day. Professional allowances cover
    25-30% of the average pharmacy's operating costs in Ontario. This helps
    to cover the funding shortfall created by the discrepancy between the $14
    actual cost of filling a prescription and the $8 reimbursed by the
    government. Your proposed cut of these allowances deals a direct and
    severe blow to the ability of pharmacies to continue offering the high
    levels of service our patients have come to rely on. It also dramatically
    betrays our ability to expand our services in line with the enhancements
    to our scope of practice negotiated with your government. In short, your
    massive health care cut means patients - often seniors and those with
    chronic diseases - will be left without the level of service they have
    come to expect and deserve. This is not our choice, but the simple
    reality necessitated by the cuts you have proposed.

    Second, you make reference to an inaccurate media report (which was
    corrected on the same day) that claimed pharmacies temporarily withheld
    our services in response to news of your health care cut. This is simply
    without basis in truth. Your statement also presupposes pharmacies are
    colluding to act together in a way that is detrimental to the patients we

    As we stated at the outset of this letter, we are always willing to
    engage the government in a constructive, forward-looking dialogue.
    Instead, we were party to a lengthy negotiation that ultimately went
    nowhere, and where little information was shared with us. You forced us
    to sign a non-disclosure agreement which limits our ability to respond to
    ad hominem attacks on the reputations of some of the finest, most
    dedicated and most talented front-line health professionals in Ontario.

    Furthermore, leaking your letter to the media before delivering it to
    pharmacists only underscores your unwillingness to engage in the type of
    constructive dialogue that we've long advocated. We hope you will engage
    in an authentic dialogue based on an honest desire to improve patient
    care in Ontario.

    We respectfully request an immediate retraction and apology from you for
    so unfairly maligning the reputation of a profession that prides itself
    on a keen interest in providing the highest-quality, front-line patient
    care possible.


    Dennis Darby, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association
    Nadine Saby, President & CEO of the Canadian Association of Chain Drug
    Ben Shenouda, RPh, BScPhm, Chair, Independent Pharmacist of Ontario

Letter Ends

About Ontario's Community Pharmacies

The Ontario's Community Pharmacies coalition is the unified voice of community pharmacy in Ontario, representing independent owner-operated stores, "banner" groups of independently-owned stores that work together, as well as large and small pharmacy chains. The coalition is supported by the associations and organizations that represent both the profession and the neighbourhood business of pharmacy, including the Ontario Pharmacists' Association, the Independent Pharmacists of Ontario, the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores and the Ontario Chain Drug Association.

Editors Note: Please be advised that community pharmacists are available, in multiple languages, for interview.


For further information: For further information: Ontario's Community Pharmacies Coalition Media Hotline, (416) 226-9100 x202

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