Prescription charge will help cut waste
I REFER to the recent announcement by Health Minister Mary Harney about her plan to introduce a prescription charge for medical card clients.
I deem this to be one of her better thought-out plans, unlike her decision to give in to consultants and pay them an annual salary equivalent of two-and-a-half times their European counterparts in return for a commitment to public patients, which many have since reneged on.
As a public health nurse visiting homes on a daily basis, it is astonishing to note the vast amounts of excess and unnecessary medication which accumulates in people's homes. It is also astonishing to witness the amount of unnecessary prescribing and reliance on prescription medication. Despite the fact that many monthly prescriptions are not used in their entirety, and despite both patient and pharmacist being alerted to this, the system allows the entire monthly prescription to be reissued regardless. There is little or no appreciation or consideration of the cost, particularly as this flawed system is paid for by the taxpayer, who, by the way, is not entitled to free medical care or medications. While I agree that a mature society must look after its less well-off, Ireland is increasingly becoming a country of social injustice where the gap between the "entitled to" and the middle income worker is narrowing to the extent that there is little difference in take-home pay between a family on social welfare and one with a wage. This was recently demonstrated in the McCarthy Report and again by a tax consultant who compared the social welfare "package" of €40,000 for a family of two adults and two children with that of a working family.
Many years go when I lived and worked in the UK, a charge was payable for each prescription. The busy GP might have been quick to issue the prescription but I had a little more time to consider if the purchase was essential enough for me to hand out the charge rather than the easier option of obtaining the item, knowing someone else was paying for it. The 50c per item fee is negligible and will go some way to reducing the vast mount of unnecessary prescribing and waste. Well done, minister.
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