Chain pharmacies across Estonia close for rest of day in protest

The Raekoja pharmacy in Tartu is one of the pharmacies that has closed for the rest of Wednesday.
The Raekoja pharmacy in Tartu is one of the pharmacies that has closed for the rest of Wednesday. Source: Madis Hindre/ERR

Apotheka, Benu, Euroapteek and Südameapteek, which are members of the Estonian Pharmacies Association (EAÜ), closed its pharmacies for the rest of the day at 2 p.m. on Wednesday in an effort to raise awareness of what they believe the country's pharmacy network would look like after the implementation of the planned pharmacy reform.

Participating chain pharmacies will remain closed until Thursday. The EAÜ announced that an exception would be made for overnight pharmacies, which would open at 8 p.m., when pharmacist-owned pharmacies not participating in the demonstration close for the evening.

Two overnight pharmacies in Tallinn, located in Tõnismäe and Lasnamäe, will nonetheless fulfill their contractual obligations and remain open, Tallinn city government told ERR.

"As politicians have signaled that 200 pharmacies are enough for Estonia and 300 pharmacies can close down without affecting the accessibility of pharmacy services and drugs, then they have taken this responsibility on themselves," EAÜ chair Timo Danilov said, referring to a bill abolishing the planned pharmacy reform being voted down in the Riigikogu on Tuesday. "On the contrary, today's pharmacy managers find that the state cannot shut down more than half of Estonia's pharmacies; patients would suffer as a result."

The pharmacies warned that Wednesday's closures will affect towns including Paldiski, Otepää,Tõrva, Kuusalu, Valga, Lihula and Loksa, but also cities such as Kohtla-Järve and Narva, neither of which currently has any pharmacist-owned pharmacies.

The State Agency of Medicines published a list (link in Estonian) on Wednesday afternoon of pharmacies that are expected to be open during Wednesday's closures.

Wednesday's edition of weekly Eesti Ekspress wrote (link in Estonia) that there are currently 35 towns across the country without a single pharmacy that is compliant with reform requirements — i.e. that is fully pharmacist-owned. The Estonian Chamber of Pharmacists, however, has gathered information regarding pharmacists' preparedness to take over ownership of non-compliant pharmacies, including in 24 of the 35 towns affected.

This would leave 11 towns without a pharmacy — Kohtla-Järve's Oru District, Loksa, Aseri, Kõpu, Kadrina, Sangaste, Kuusalu, Kullamaa, Haljala, Võsu and Rõngu — which currently only have chain pharmacies and no pharmacists interested in pharmacy ownership.

The Riigikogu rejected a coalition-submitted bill that would reverse the planned pharmacy reform on on its first reading on Wednesday.

Former health and labor minister Riina Sikkut (SDE) proposed rejecting the bill. The proposal to reject it was supported 50-46 with four abstentions.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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