‘Fix your crumbling department, Manto’

May 30, 2008

‘Fix your crumbling department, Manto’

May 26 2008

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang should leave the private health care sector alone and rather focus on fixing the crumbling public health care sector, United SA Pharmacies (USAP) said on Monday.

While the private health care sector had been asked by the health department to comment on draft amendments to the Medicines and Related Substances Act and the National Health Act, USAP was sceptical of the department’s commitment to substantively consider these proposals.

"Our experience with the department of health over the issue of the pharmacy dispensing fee for medicines has left us cynical in the extreme," USAP chairman Julian Solomon said in a statement.

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"It is time the private health care sector put a stake in the ground and said: leave us alone and rather focus on fixing the crumbling public health care sector."

The proposed amendments had wide-ranging implications for delivery by the full range of private health care providers, including pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hospitals and medical aids, he said.

"We are concerned the department will pay no more than lip service to the many very serious and considered submissions being made on these proposed amendments.

"The reality is that unless the department takes account of the proposals and concerns raised by those at the coal face of private health care service delivery, the flood of health care professionals already leaving this country will increase, which will have a further material impact on the ability of the private sector to deliver quality health care services," Solomon said.

Like private hospitals and medical aids, pharmacies were businesses and any business needed to make a reasonable profit to exist.

The proposed regulations in respect of the dispensing fee would require a non-commercial approach and any attempt from USAP to compromise with the department had been met with disinterest or disregard.

In November last year, USAP had submitted a plan to the department, which if implemented, would bring down medicine prices overnight.

"To date, we have heard nothing," he said.

USAP had now submitted its input in the proposed legislative amendments.

"We are appreciative of the opportunity and can only hope that the invitation to comment… will be met with a proactive approach and in a spirit of compromise and co-operation.

"As sceptical as we are, we live in hope of an acceptable viable solution and will certainly play our part in reaching a solution," Solomon said.

A spokesperson for Tshabalala-Msimang was not immediately available for comment. – Sapa

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