Pharmacists deal raises questions
Tentative compensation deal with province pitched as predictable funding
By: Amy Crofts
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 09, 2013 06:00 am
Local pharmacists are responding with mixed feelings after the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association reached a tentative four-year agreement with the province last week.
The deal, if ratified, will update dispensing and compensation fees for services that pharmacists provide, such as prescription authorizations, injections and care plans.
The agreement will also ensure four years of predictable funding.
“It gives the pharmacy owner and the pharmacists that work for them an idea of what they have to work with, because that’s been one of the challenges lately with all the changes in generic pricing,” said Byron Bergh, past president of the pharmacists’ association.
The deal will work to end the dispute between the province and the association over cuts to generic drug prices announced in March. The province used to pay 35 per cent of the brand-name cost of drugs, but has now lowered it to 18 per cent to be on par with other provinces.
Pharmacists have said the reduction will cut their bottom line since drug manufacturers will no longer be able to offer rebate deals for bulk orders.
With the updated compensation fees for clinical services, along with a 50-cent increase in dispensing fees that takes effect next April, pharmacists will be able to plan ahead and provide consistent care to their patients, Bergh said.
One St. Albert pharmacist however, still has questions.
“Is it going to decrease my profitability or is it going to increase my profitability? They’re coming out with a tentative agreement that we’ve not seen,” said Lisa Devos, owner of Salvus Rxellence Professional Dispensary.
She explained that community pharmacists haven’t been given the opportunity to provide feedback about the tentative deal.
“I think the news actually got the agreement before we knew it was coming. It’s really concerning that an agreement can be reached with zero consultation,” she said.
Bergh said the board of directors, which represents about 3,900 pharmacists in Alberta, “put the feelers out” before approving the agreement in principle.
“To a certain degree that’s always a bit of challenge as to how much you communicate or not, but for the most part we have indicated to the (members) that we have been in negotiations,” he said.
Marlene Bykowski, manager of Remedy’s Rx Pharmacy in St. Albert, said pharmacists are lucky to have the association in their corner advocating for them.
She said the agreement emphasizes the role pharmacists play as part of a health-care team, allowing them to be more accessible to patients.
“We’ve always been frontline,” she said. “When you phone, you talk to a pharmacist. That’s not always the case. You can’t phone your doctor’s office and talk to the doctor.”
The association and the province hope to hammer out the details of the agreement by Dec. 31.