Community pharmacies around New Zealand will be forced to close their doors if the government does not financially support them, according to Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand chief executive Andrew Gaudin.
"Many of our member pharmacies are doing it very tough, despite being a vital part of the Covid-19 response, as well as the wider primary health care sector", Mr Gaudin said.
"Our pharmacists and their teams are delivering an essential service in very testing circumstances due to Covid-19, but the simple fact is their businesses are facing increasing costs and falling sales. Prescription dispensing and retail sales are plummeting due to the Level 4 restrictions.
"Pharmacies rely on retail sales to make their businesses work financially. The government needs to step in and help these essential businesses through extremely difficult times so they can keep delivering the services their communities need. If this doesn't happen, some of our member pharmacies will be forced to close, just when they are needed more than ever."
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Pharmacies offered a range of services and expertise to their customers, from dispensing prescriptions to giving expert advice and administering flu vaccinations. They were are a vital part of their local communities, but the numbers didn't stack up, Mr Gaudin said.
"Once a pharmacy is gone from a local community, they may never come back. And it is their customers, many of whom don't have other options, who miss out on expert care from their local pharmacy," he added.
"It is good to see that the government is looking to help general practices through these times, but this support needs to be extended to another vital part of the primary health care sector, the community pharmacy."
Richard Brown, who owns and operates Kaitaia's Far North Pharmacy, agreed that these were difficult times. He was still selling some retail products but there had been a "definite dip," but March had set a prescriptions record, a lot of people "getting in early," before the lockdown, which would have an impact this month, and perhaps for some time to come.
"Prescriptions will definitely be down this month, but it's hard to say what will happen," Mr Brown said.
"I expect the lockdown to remain at Level 3 for a while after it is relaxed from Level 4, so it might take a wee while for things to get going again."
He had done "all the right things" to protect his business, and his employees, a number of whom were at home in isolation, but he could not predict how busy the pharmacy would be when they returned to work.