Thursday 27 July 2017

Median pharmacy group tops HSE list with €1m in fees

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Simon Rowe

The country's highest-earning pharmacy group secured more than €1m in fees from the HSE, according to new figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Median Healthcare Services, a company owned by a multi-millionare trio of Irish pharmacists, has come out on top in the rankings after receiving €1,052,524 in fees for dispensing drugs and medicines under various State schemes in 2015, according to the latest compiled annual HSE figures.

Median Healthcare Services is majority owned by entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, including Ballymount and Clonwest.

Median's company directors, Martin Bates, Paddy Halligan and Dave O'Farrell, reportedly made more than €50m when they sold their stake in the 30-chain Unicare Pharmacy Group to German company Gehe (now called Celesio) for €110m in 2002.

The company provides pharmacy services to nursing homes and residential care centres.

Abbey Healthcare in Dublin was the second highest recipient of HSE pharmacy fees in 2015, according to the documents.

The company, which owns outlets in Dublin and Cork, received a total of €866,572 in fees and mark-up payments for a range of schemes including the GMS (medical card), drug payment scheme, long-term illness scheme, methadone scheme and hi-tech drug scheme.

This figure is an increase from €835,910 in 2014.

Hickey's Pharmacy Group in Dublin north central received fees and mark-up payments of €843,349 over the same period, an increase from €794,000 in 2014. Waterford Health Park Pharmacy is ranked fourth on the list of HSE payouts with fees totalling €746,286.

The Sam McCauley Group of chemists, which owns a chain of 30 pharmacies, is ranked fifth with fees totalling €726,177.

Northface, trading as Irwins pharmacy group in Cork, received €690,265 in the same period, and is ranked sixth. Dublin-based AKTJ, which trades as Moloney Chemists, was the seventh-highest recipient of HSE fees in 2015 at €663,500.

Waterford-based Power's Chemist in Ballbricken is ranked eight at €632,024.

At number nine in the rankings, at €579,393, is Finglas-based Jabez, trading as Stacks Pharmacy, which has 16 outlets. Corr's Pharmacy in Clonshaugh is ranked at number 10 for HSE fees after it received €577,544 in 2015.

Typically, 70pc of a pharmacy's turnover comes from dispensing and the remainder comes from retail.

The Irish Pharmacy Union has pointed out that fees to pharmacists have significantly reduced in recent years, while the operation costs for pharmacists such as staff salaries, premises, insurance, continue to rise.

"A recent review by accountants Fitzgerald Power calculated that, since 2009, the State has extracted at least €1.733bn in overall savings from community pharmacy payments, through a combination of reduced reimbursements for medicines, as well as significant cuts to pharmacists' remuneration through fee reductions and elimination of mark-ups on State-funded schemes.

"This is a substantial deterioration in income in a market that continues to remain difficult with increased competition, reduced expenditure on health and reference pricing.

"With an increase in the level of items dispensed and a reduction in fees, pharmacies are now doing a lot more for less.

"This is a time when fees to pharmacists have significantly reduced while the operation costs for pharmacists such as staff salaries, premises, insurance, etc, continue to increase."

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