By Bill Murdoch, MPP
You may have already heard the news that the McGuinty Liberals have proposed major funding cuts to community pharmacies in their bid to reduce drug pricing in Ontario.
But Premier Dalton McGuinty yesterday conceded to the fact that he was sacrificing small drug stores in places like Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound for the sake of winning his public relations war on generic-drug reforms.
My guess is that the promised savings are a thing of Liberal deception, just like their $15 billion Health Tax.
According to pharmacists, McGuinty wants to slay a part of their income known as “professional allowances.”
For years, pharmacists’ income has come from these so-called “professional allowances,” which are paid to them by generic drug companies. The more generic drugs a pharmacy dispenses, the higher the professional allowance.
The elimination of their “professional allowance” will mean pharmacists lose up to half of their revenues. (Dispensing fees will increase by a bit but won’t make up for the shortfall.)
For small drug stores that don’t sell more profitable products such as cosmetics and that don’t dot every street corner as is the case in urban centres, these reforms will mean a tremendous reduction in direct-patient care.
Right now pharmacists provide support to patients concerning their treatment and prescriptions for what are often complex medical conditions like diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.
However subtle its attack, the Liberal government’ fight with Big Pharma will hurt our small drug stores here at home.
Many of the consumers who are supposed to benefit from the Liberal’s move already get their drugs under their Ontario Drug Benefit Program or through private insurance plans.
I have met many of our local pharmacists and I know they’re responsible members of our communities. I want them to be able to continue providing important health care services.
I would also like to remind my constituents of Dalton McGuinty’s twisted take on health care equity, especially as it relates to rural vs. urban Ontario.
On the eve of the Toronto Centre by-election a few months ago, the McGuinty government found $15 million to save the Toronto Grace Health Centre. No such hand-out was extended to Shelburne when their beds were being transferred out of the Shelburne community.
To that end, the only “professional allowance” that is undeserved here is Dalton McGuinty’s $15 billion Health Tax, which has Ontarians paying more and getting less in healthcare services.
If the Ministry of Health had offered routine increases in dispensing fees, this fight may not have come about. The unionized workers of Ontario all expect yearly increases, many exceeding the cost of living increase, and even the Liberal Party recognizes increases in the minimum wage as important to other workers.
I support and will defend our community pharmacies and will be advocating for a fair and responsible resolution to this dispute. If savings are to be seen in the payment of prescription drugs, the pharmacists of the province should be consulted, not legislated.