Assigning a fair price to pharmacies has proven an obstacle in Estonia's pharmacy reform, and the transition to a system of pharmacist-owned pharmacies could be implemented in stages, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Centre) said during Question Time in the Riigikogu on Wednesday.
In his response to a question from MPs, Kiik said that the Ministry of Social Affairs and the State Agency of Medicines have already charted pharmacies that meet the requirements of the pharmacy reform as well as those whose ownership needs to change. Assigning a fair price to these pharmacies, however, has proven an obstacle to progress with the reform.
"That is, when a fair price from the sellers' point of view is two or three times higher than that from the buyers' point of view, then — having myself been active in the advising and conduct of various sales transactions in the real estate for several years — it is very difficult to reach an agreement," he said.
According to the minister, the question is also whether wholesalers that are currently pharmacy owners will start adapting their pharmacies or whether they will wait for the decisions of the coalition's workgroup and make their decisions accordingly.
If large numbers of applications start coming in at once, such as in a short period of time in the final months leading up to the reform deadline, when the termination of business, change of ownership or establishment of new pharmacies must be discussed in connection with 300 pharmacies, he continued, the question will naturally arise whether this can be done with the available administrative capacity.
Kiik believes that the switch could be carried out in stages, which would allow for a smoother transition and the ability to focus on the needs of specific regions.
"I myself have offered as a potential solution the option of conducting this transition in stages, perhaps by region, and deciding whether it will be rural areas first, followed by towns and cities and settlements of various sizes, or whether to start in certain counties first, geographically," he explained.
Such a transition would ensure that the provision of pharmacy services would not be interrupted anywhere.
This proposal will be considered in the coalition workgroup as well, Kiik added.
Editor: Aili Vahtla