The PN’s proposal to refund patients purchasing medicines from pharmacies as a means to address the out of stock free medicine issue only shows that the PN is choosing to continue to promote a failed system.
It also goes to show it is refusing to guarantee the constant supply of medicines.
PL main spokesperson for health Marie-Lousie Coleiro Preca was addressing a press conference at the PL HQ.
The PN has proposed that those patients who do not find the required free medicine distributed by government in stock can resort to purchasing the medicines from a pharmacy and will be refunded the amount the government normally pays for the medicine.
Ms Coleiro Preca said that this within itself creates a problem, since medicines sold in pharmacies are normally higher in price meaning that patients who are vulnerable due to some chronic condition or other will most likely end up without treatment since a number of patients, especially the elderly, cannot afford to purchase such medicines since they must bear the brunt of incurring the difference in price.
Flanked by PL candidates Chris Fearne and Adrian Meli, Ms Coleiro Preca said that the issue of out of stock medicines dominated this legislature adding that the government’s procurement set-up had also failed.
“Instead of addressing the issue, the government is lacking sensitivity through its proposal towards patients who are vulnerable.
“This also means that medicines won’t remain free as is continuously stated by the PN,” she said.
She pointed out that while Dr Busuttil can afford to purchase medicines, some people out there cannot, referring to the PN deputy leader’s statement that the problem of out of stock medicines would be reduced or eradicated since patients can now turn to pharmacies and refunded for the medicines they purchase.
She added that the PN shrugged off responsibility by failing to guarantee that out of stock medicines will be the exception and not the rule.
Mr Meli, a pharmacist by profession, said that the current situation worsened during the last 12 months, referring to out of stock medicines, despite Health Minister Joe Cassar’s denial.
He added that “I can confirm this alongside the number of patients who experience such problems”.
Mr Meli echoed Ms Coleiro Preca’s words that that most people who are eligible to free medicines are low-income families or elderly people who depend on a pension and having to resort to purchasing the medicines themselves while also incurring the difference in price can lead to a number of problems. He added that some medicines run into the 20-25 euro bracket.
He said that a PL government is committed to introducing a patient-oriented system if entrusted to lead the country for the next five years.
Dr Fearne, a paediatric surgeon by profession, said that the PN’s medicine refund proposal meant that healthcare will not remain free.
He said that a Labour government is committed to introducing a procurement IT system to monitor effectively what medicines are in and out of stock, adding that through the PL’s ‘Horizon Scanning’ proposal, experts will be able to oversee what is happening in the pharmaceutical world.
Citing one particular instance, Dr Fearne said that the government had purchased a certain medicine in advance at two million euros and a month or two down the line, the US Federal Drug Administration had strongly recommended the medicine stop being administered to patients.
This, he said, resulted in wastage since the stocked medicine had to be disposed of.
He said that Labour will turn to pharmaceutical companies who can provide medicine within a 24-hour timeframe in the event certain medicines run out, especially in emergency situations in order to address the issue and not witness a repeat of situations where operations had to be postponed due to the lack of medicines.
On the already implemented Home Help introduced by a PN government, Dr Fearne said that "the scheme would be further enhanced and health carers would be assigned not only to simply deliver the medicines to patients who have mobility problems," as he claimed "currently is the case", but also assist them how to administer the medicines.