Fri | Dec 15, 2017

NHF hits back at criticism it is forcing closure of private pharmacies

Published:Sunday | October 8, 2017 | 12:26 PM
Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Fund, Everton Anderson.

The National Health Fund (NHF) has hit back at public criticism that its dispensation of subsidised drugs has caused the closure of several retail pharmacies across the country. 

Writing in last week's Sunday Gleaner, pharmacist and journalist, Milton Wray, said the wide availability of significantly subsidised and free drugs through government's DrugServ pharmacies had undermined the operations of retail pharmacies.

He noted that DrugServ pharmacies are sometimes set up in proximity to retail pharmacies which are unable to compete as the subsidised drugs are available to all classes and age groups. 

He also criticised the former Golding and current Holness administrations' maintenance of the free healthcare policy, which he said facilitated the problem.

According to Wray, the situation could be sending the country to a crisis similar to the financial meltdown of the mid to late 90s, as pharmacies' debt to creditors and suppliers rises.     

However, writing in today's Sunday Gleaner, Chief Executive Officer of the NHF, Everton Anderson, called Mr Wray's comments unfair and inaccurate.

He rejected blame for the closure of pharmacies over the years, noting that similar to any other business, pharmacies must have a viable business model to be sustainable. 

He adds that the NHF was established in 2003 to provide benefits to all Jamaicans, regardless of age, gender, health, or economic status. 

Anderson said hundreds of pharmacies have benefited from partnership with NHF. He said the since NHF's establishment in 2003, more than $31billion has been paid out. 

During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, about $4.2 billion was paid to participating pharmacies, and for the first six months of the current financial year, approximately $2.1 billion has been earned by pharmacies through the NHF.

Anderson said the number of private pharmacies signing on as NHF Pharmacy Providers has also grown from 376 in 2015 to 401 in 2017.

He said based on enrolment trends, the number was expected to increase.