MY OPINION – Health? Whose health?

by Holly Southernwood
The Helensville District Health Trust’s vision is “To be the healthiest rural community in New Zealand”.
At their recent AGM it was reported that the Kaipara Medical Centre has outgrown its premises, but needs to improve its financial aspect. Subsequently fees have been increased for ‘extended hours’ service, which is acceptable to most people.
To serve the mobility needs of some patients (elderly and disabled) it was proposed to establish a dispensary within the Medical Centre (taking up scarce space?). Whilst this is an invaluable innovation for those who struggle to get to the chemist shop to get medication after visiting the doctor, the implications for the business health of our existing chemist are significantly negative.
The opportunity to establish the dispensary was put out to tender, with apparently more than two other chemist businesses interested. Helensville Unichem was put in a ‘between a rock and a hard place’ situation. The costs of building/establishing the dispensary are to be borne by the chemist. Rent and other overheads to be borne by the chemist. Provision of qualified pharmacist (high wage cost) to be borne by the chemist. Yet no more business than is currently generated will occur. So the chemist incurs significant extra cost, for no financial benefit. That is bad business health effect. The medical centre loses a little space but gains income and assets, whilst incurring no costs at all. That is unfair advantage.
If Helensville Unichem does not take up the option to establish the dispensary, the business lost will jeopardise the survival of our existing chemist business. This would impact on the business health of our community, further reducing services available in our town.
Yet there is a simple solution that Kaipara Medical Centre is well aware of. Their staff fax or email prescriptions to our chemist, who take the medication to the Medical Centre. This is much more financially viable for the chemist business. It may mean patients have a slightly longer wait for their medication to be provided to them, but not having to travel to the chemist shop would more than compensate for that.
And the Medical Centre do not lose any of their (much needed?) space! But they do not gain additional income and assets. So what is the real motive? Whose health is priority?

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