New fees ‘won’t hit pockets’

2009-06-04 00:00

THE impact of a proposed roll-out of the recommended fees pharmacists charge for professional services will have on consumers’ pockets is still unclear.

The South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) and other key stakeholders, including Pharmacy schools at various universities, conducted an in-depth three-year study into the fees pharmacists should charge for certain services.

These services include the preparation of total parenteral (injected) nutrition products, “sterile products” and “intravenous admixtures”, and the compounding of medicines.

A professional fee may also be charged for certain instances in which pharmacists provide patients with information regarding medication and certain types of consultations.

Under the proposed guidelines, these professional fees also apply to blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol monitoring services.

SAPC registrar Amos Masango told The Witness that he does not believe the proposed changes will on the whole result in the consumer having to fork out more money at pharmacy tills.

He argued that it is difficult to compare the current system with the proposed system as pharmacists are currently recouping fees lost elsewhere in their pharmacies.

An example of such a practice from the recent past was the charging of administration fees.

One of the main aims of the proposed changes is to create more transparency around the pricing of professional fees and medicines.

Masango said the new system will enable the council to investigate allegations of overcharging by pharmacists.

The SAPC has invited the public to comment on the fee structure within 30 days of May 28, 2009, when the notice was published.

Masango said the announcement gives medical schemes the opportunity to make plans for the incorporation of the services into their benefit schedules for 2010.

Lorraine Osman of the Pharmaceutical Society of SA told The Witness that the proposed changes will also highlight the professional capabilities of pharmacists, who are also entitled to appropriate remuneration for services.

“We sincerely hope that the Medical schemes will include these fees in their benefit schedules,” added Osman.

She also expressed hope that the department of Health will approve and incorporate the fee structure in the soon to be finalised reference price list (RPL).

The RPL is a set of prices used as reference in billing for health services, procedures, consumable and disposable items.

Regarding the costs of blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol monitoring services under the proposed system, several local pharmacists believe there will be minimal price hikes in the case of pharmacies that already have a clinic managed by a nursing sister.

However, consumers may have to pay an extra R10 to R20 for this service at pharmacies where the pharmacists conduct these tests.

kavith@witness.co.za

 

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