Pharmacy under threat in revamp

By Doug Laing

A Napier chemist who fears he will have to close the Maraenui Pharmacy because of the impact of a new funding regime says the same is likely to be happening in similar struggling communities throughout the country - "but no one knows anything about it".

Maurice King says prescription funding under a new regime, which will come into effect on July 1, will not be sufficient to sustain businesses such as the Maraenui Shopping Centre anchor. The pharmacy relies almost exclusively on prescription customers.

It does not have the same backstop levels of retail sales such as cameras or cosmetics, or even Lotto, that support other pharmacies.

Transitional arrangements designed to give pharmacies certainty as the new regime kicks in would "only delay the inevitable," he said.

He did not want to be forced to shut down once the store had become uneconomic. But unless other options were presented "it will close", ending a dream to provide an essential service in a community with vast health and social issues at the same time as turning around an underperforming pharmacy.

Mr King, who also operates the Balmoral Pharmacy at the Napier City Pak'n Save and who bought the Maraenui Pharmacy in 2010, spoke of his worries last week at a public meeting to discuss issues in the Maraenui area.

As community support grows, including a petition alerting the Minister of Health co-ordinated by Napier city councillor Maxine Boag, he will meet a representative of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board, which administers funding on behalf of the Government.

The new regime sees an end to prescription dispensing fees, to be replaced by funding based on pharmacists becoming more patient-focused and working as experts in medicines management as part of "multi-disciplinary" teams.

One of the new services sees pharmacists deciding whether patients meet criteria for long-term condition funding, for which they will register with the pharmacist.

Supported by the Pharmacy Guild and the Pharmaceutical Society, it was at least partly designed to stem what the Government believes is an unsustainable 9 per cent annual growth in dispensing costs throughout the country.

Pharmacy funding, accessible by about 900 community pharmacies throughout the country, will be capped at $370.5 million for the first year of the new regime, increasing just 1.5 per cent each year. DHB planning and funding general manager Andrew Lesperance said the organisation would work closely with all pharmacies to ensure a smooth transition and was "keen to maintain a viable community pharmacy sector". "Given the current economic situation, it goes without saying that DHBs place significant value in community pharmacies such as the Maraenui Pharmacy, which helps support vulnerable populations," he said.

Ms Boag said the Maraenui Pharmacy was an essential part of its community and without it transport access and other factors might discourage patients from going elsewhere to have their prescriptions filled.

Local service provider Roopu a Iwi Trust manager Maureen Mua said a lot of people in the area were concerned and the new issue did not seem to be in line with other promises for services in the area.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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