The Riigikogu voted against two bills from the Social Democratic Party (SDE) aimed at amending planned government pharmacy reforms on Wednesday afternoon.
First Bill: Hospitals to import, retail medicines
The first bill, initiated by SDE MP and former health minister Riina Sikkut, together with another former health minister and erstwhile SDE leader Jevgeni Ossinovksi and MP Helmen Kütt, would have given hospital pharmacies the opportunity to import their own medicines and, in exceptional cases, to sell them at retail.
The bill was supported by 11 MPs, with 63 against and no abstentions, meaning it was withdrawn.
Center Party MP Oudekki Loone suggested waiting for the reforms, scheduled for April 1 and which would transfer majority ownership of pharmacies to dispensing pharmacists and away from larger wholesalers, to take effect and return to the issue later where needed.
Riina Sikkut answered that this would not be possible later, as some rural pharmacies would need an exception to the ownership requirements (see below).
Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Urmas Espenberg told the initiators of the bil thatl: "You are too late, SDE. When the house has already been demolished, there is no point in designing a sofa."
EKRE's own bill to amend the reforms was also voted down, on Wednesday.
Second Bill: Softening the transitional blow
The same SDE members also launched a second bill to amend the reforms, which follow the tenets of an act passed five years ago, to extend the transitional period beyond April 1 in an effort to soften the blow of exchanging ownership, as well as permitting multiple dispensing pharmacists to own the pharmacy they work in, rather than one.
Critics of pharmacy reform has said that since less than 300 of Estonia's nearly 600 pharmacies currently conform to the ownership requirements, when the reforms come into effect a little over a month from now, large-scale closures will be in the offing, hitting rural areas hardes.
The bill was defeated by 54 votes to 11, with no abstentions.
Neither the government nor the Riigikogu's Social Affairs Committee supported either bill, with the latter recommending they be rejected at first reading.
Editor: Andrew Whyte