The Honourable Deb Matthews,
Ontario Minister of Health & Long Term Care,
Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario.
17 May, 2010
Ref: The Pharmaceutical Professional Allowance Furore
This is an open letter to you and all others who may have become embroiled in this issue. To commence I do believe YOU took the correct course of action, in the public need, and I would request, in the interests of all those who require pharmaceutical services, that you ignore the overtures of the South Stormont Council in Eastern Ontario.
I am a resident of South Stormont and I understand the municipality has sent you a communication in this regard. Since I will be including the South Stormont Council in my mailing of this letter I will be emphasising elements of the process of which you will be familiar. For this I apologize.
The case developed by the South Stormont Council is predicated upon sheer nonsense. Councillor Hart, the person who brought this matter before council, did so on flawed information. I find it difficult to comprehend that an elected member of the council might be so naive. You must understand she gained her knowledge from visiting twelve  local pharmacies to obtain their opinions. These pharmacists argued they needed the professional allowances to cover the costs of staff and electricity.
Naturally, the pharmacists agreed with the councillor they should continue to receive the professional allowances that amount to a subsidy supporting the profession. Of course, the pharmacists made the case they were being treated unfairly and this step taken by the councillor demonstrates how immature she is. The same councillor could have asked twelve council employees if they should be given a pay increase and it would have been a resounding ‘yes’.
Let us look at a few facts related to the pharmaceutical profession where the pharmacist is the owner/operator. Watching a pharmacist at work we will see this professional fill, as a minimum, ten to twelve prescriptions every hour. A little elementary school arithmetic will show us the pharmacist is earning more than sixty dollars an hour just for counting pills into a plastic container and affixing a computer generated label or simply putting a label on a pre-packaged tube of ointment.
Not too shabby a return when one considers the pharmacist is dealing with a clientele that has no choice, here in Canada, but to go to a pharmacy for its needs.
Next we have the undeclared profits from all the non-prescription sales. The clients fill the need for these, in the pharmacy, since the clients are already in the establishment – items such as Tylenol, Aspirin, Nivea and a whole plethora of other products ranging from shampoo to Vaseline. To put the sale of these items into perspective perhaps we should look at how inexpensive these items are if purchased at one of the many Mexican pharmaceutical outlets scattered along the USA/Mexican border.
At the above mentioned outlets, a package of Halls throat tablets costing more than a dollar an Ontario pharmacy, can be purchased for a mere fraction of the cost. I personally purchased a box containing twenty packages of these Halls for three dollars and I could have bargained for them had I chosen to. Even prescription drugs are available at far less cost than our pharmacists charge. I know because I purchased a product, Gabapentin, not covered by my plan. These drugs were in exactly the same sealed container as produced by the drug company – they were so inexpensive only cents each and in an Ontario pharmacy they were several dollars a piece for exactly the same product.
The public has been ripped off for too long and it has taken you, a courageous Provincial Minister of Health and Long Term Care, to try and bring costs into line with reality. All the store neighbours alongside any pharmacy would tell the South Stormont councillors they, too, would like an annual subsidy to cover their electricity and staffing costs because they do NOT have a ready made clientele.
In many surveys, carried out by the media, the pharmacists interviewed spelled out their sad story but none would divulge their take home pay. They simply said this was private information but the same does not apply to the pay scales of teachers, policemen, firemen and all the public servants – are these not private, too? Yet these pay scales get published in the news media, not that there is anything wrong with this because it is a matter of public information.
I wonder if the councillor, who has decided she dislikes the provincial government we have, has watched the pharmacists she interviewed drive home to splendid residences in their top of the line luxury cars. The pharmacists are truly not hurting.
There is much talk about how the pharmacist supplements the medical profession. An unadulterated false claim because the pharmacists are only doing what the other small business people are doing, providing their customers with a good service. These actions of caring for the clientele are the same as those carried out by every small business if they want to keep their clients. It matters not if it is a restauranteur, a hardware store owner, a hairdresser or a stationary store owner, if they want to keep their customers they MUST look after them and they have no $200,000 a year professional allowance/subsidy.
I am dismayed that members of the South Stormont Council should be spending their time debating subjects not related to our municipal scene and of which they have only minimal knowledge. These elected people should be working at municipal needs and NOT wasting time interfering in matters pertaining to the provincial government.
John E. Milnes, South Stormont.
(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)
It’s funny. When Medical Arts pharmacy lost the Glen Stor Lodge contract here what stuck out to me was the complaints from residents that the drugs not covered by their drug plans were costing them more money.
That after a city councilor, who I shant name, disclosed that there was no extra cost to Cornwall with the new contract at that time.
What do you think Ontario? Do you support the million dollar Pharmacy Campaign? Do you support Minister Matthews cuts? You can post your comments below.
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There are so many misconceptions stated by Mr. Milnes, it is laughable how ignorant he is about this issue.
1. Pharmacists do not merely “count pills” or “affix labels.” They check for drug interactions, call the doctor for refills, and help patients with their insurance claims, just to name a few. Even Deb Matthews herself has publicly state that the role of the pharmacist is beyond counting pills; it is providing management of drug therapy as well as public health and education.
2. Any rational person will realize that comparing prices of goods in Ontario and Mexico is stupid. Is Mr. Milner going to complain about everything that costs more in Ontario than Mexico? Perhaps he can afford to drive to Mexico for his medications, but many more citizens in Ontario do not have the time, energy, or money to do so.
3. The comparison of pharmacies to other small business is disingenuous. For no other business does the government fully regulate prices, forcing pharmacies to rely on the government-mandated prices; which have failed to rise with the inflation. The dispensing fee has risen 56 cents in the last twenty years. The government has been happy to sit back and let professional allowances fill the gap.
4. Mr. Milner implies that pharmacists “make too much money” and won’t be hurting. While it is true that a large portion of professional allowances go to paying salaries, I would challenge anyone to find a way to deliver healthcare without a paying a trained professional. Professional allowances are what allows pharmacies to provide many services for free or a steep discounts: blister packs, blood pressure machines, the ability to drop everything and talk to your about your kid’s fever. It is these services that pharmacists worry will be lost in the Ministry attempt to cut costs. Mr. Milner’s deceptive statement that pharmacists “make too much” has very little to do with the issue at hand and belies his ignorance at the true costs of providing healthcare.
Let me restate this point. This is not about how much pharmacists are paid. This is about whether the government is willing to properly fund pharmacies for the services they provide. The reason pharmacists are crying out against these cuts is because they know that the people who are going to be caught in the crossfire are the people who frequent pharmacies the most: the elderly, those on fixed income, and those withe chronic disease. These are also the people who can least afford a hike in prices.
I would urge anyone who is concerned about their healthcare to visit stopcuts.ca to get more information. From Mr. Milner statements, it appears that the government’s campaign of misinformation is succeeding.
It would seem to me that 12 pharmacies in the South Stormont would be a significant number and would definitely represent the all of themand the success of a business is not directly related to the type of car the owner drives. Gaelen Weston use to drive a beat-up old Volvo when he came to inspect his research labs and the owner of a bakery I use to work for drove a brand new Cadillac away from his business when the banks locked the doors on him. All business have one goal in mind, to make a profit. Without profit there is no reason for a business to exist. A business without profit is essentially, well, the government and we all know how helpful and efficient they are.
I totally agree with the student pharmacist who points out facts and has the experience to back it up, unlike John E. Milnes, who is full of hot air and has no experience and loves to bad mouth individuals like myself who is passionate about telling the truth and saving small businesses in Ontario. Something that Dalton McGuinty is hell bent on destroying and apparently Milnes as well.
I suggest Mr. John E. Milnes next time you need pills or advice from your professional pharmacist, stand back and observe how hard these guys really work or perhaps talk to one to get the real facts.
They are the last of top notch quality front line health care that exists today. I am proud to say our council stands behind them one hundred percent.
instead of ranting on and bashing your hard working councillor .
Mr. Milne is so off base and insulting in his statements it is ridiculous. I’m a pharmacist and I can proudly say I have directly and indirectly saved lives. Again he fails to grasp the notion that free market rules don’t apply to pharmacy since the government completely dictates the allowable renumeration for a very substantial portion for the pharmacies’ income, the Ontario Drug Plan. The government wants to force pharmacies to dispense medication for the Ontario Drug Plan at a loss. By the way (not that it matters) I drive a 2006 Honda Civic and after about 71/2 total years of university study (bare minimum is 5) make about 80,000 a year.
This was just a smoke screen to get the media’s attention off the HST. Sadly, it worked.
It will be business as usual for the pharmacies very soon. Take a pill.