Muhu and Räpina pharmacies safe after April 1 ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Pharmacy. Photo is illustrative.
Pharmacy. Photo is illustrative. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Pharmacies at opposite ends of Estonia have a solution to potential impending pharmacy closures.

Whereas over 30 districts are still hanging in the balance as to whether their pharmacies will still be functioning on April 1 when government reforms come into effect, those on the island of Muhu, and the southeastern Estonian town of Räpina, should remain functioning at least, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

The deadline for chain pharmacies to hand out redundancy notices if they plan to close their doors when the new reforms – which place control of pharmacies into the hands of dispensing pharmacists – enter into force, was March 1.

Pharmacies shutting up shop were also required to inform the State Agency of Medicines (Räviamet) of their decision by that date, but the latter says that it has only received a handful of closure notifications, all of these in larger towns, and 32 critical areas have been identified were, as things

However, in two of these areas, the situation is almost resolved, according to State Agency of Medicines communications manager Kristi Sarap .

"In Räpina and on the island of Muhu, the current pharmacy requirements have been sent to us for processing," said Sarap.

This still leaves dozens of smaller towns and villages up and down the country which are still at risk of pharmacy closure if the status quo remains, particularly in Rapla and Võru counties, where there would not be a single functioning pharmacy come April 1, if nothing changes.

Locations still at risk of having no pharmacy after April 1

Those locales which do not yet have a pharmacy complying with the requirements, which include that dispensing pharmacists hold a minimum 51 percent stake in the pharmacy they work in, are: Haabneeme, Kose, Kuusalu, Laulasmaa, Loksa, Muraste, Paldiski and Saku (Harju County); Emmaste, Kärdla and Käina (Hiiumaa); Aseri and Kohtla-Järve (Ida-Viru County); Avinurme (Jõgeva County); Väätsa (Järva County); Risti, Kullamaa and Lihula (Lääne County); Haljala and Kadrina (Lääne-Viru County); Lihula, Paikuse, Surju and Uulu (Pärnu County); Vana-Vigala (Rapla County); Rõngu (Tartu County); Otepää, Sangaste, Tõrva and Valga (Valga County); Jämejala, Kõpu, Kolga-Jaani, Mustla and Võhma (Viljandi County).

This list is largely unchanged from late January and is pretty evenly spread across the country.

Kristi Sarap also said that dispensing pharmacists now have more confidence, following the voting-down of three rival bills aimed at reversing the course of the reforms to varying extents, that the required ownership regulations are now going ahead.

Kristi Sarap also said that dispensing pharmacists now have more confidence, following the voting-down of three rival bills aimed at reversing the course of the reforms to varying extents, that the required ownership regulations are now going ahead.

"If we compare the situation with how it was at the beginning of February, there is now more information. The Riigikogu has spoken, and has sent a clear message to all pharmacists. Whereas, at the beginning of February, few applications had been submitted, it is nice to see that 24 licenses were submitted this (yesterday-ed.) morning. It is really high time we brought ourselves into line with the law to continue the pharmacy service in [currently] non-compliant pharmacies on April 1. The agency has reorganized its work organization to maximize its role connected to pharmacy reform," she went on.

Larger settlements in better shape

The requests were as noted mostly in larger settlements including Saue, Jõgeva, Sillamäe, Pärnu and Elva, as well as Tallinn and Tartu, Sarap said, and these largely already comply with the regulations.

Last month, the State Agency of Medicines sent letters to pharmacies not yet complying with the pharmacy reform stipulations, as well as to 35 local governments, with letters seeking clarification on their future activities.

Critics of the government's reforms, which follow requirements set out in an act passed five years ago, said that the new law would lead to mass closures in pharmacies nationwide and particularly in rural areas. The major wholesalers, who stand most to lose from the reforms in the transfer of ownership from their association chains to individual pharmacists, staged a half-day lock-out of their pharmacies in December in an effort to draw attention to these fears.

Possible solutions touted have included making pharmacists franchisees of the chain/wholesaler, though it is not clear if this will happen much in reality.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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