Call to review medicine plan

A call has been made in Parliament to review the State's Free Medicine Scheme. Picture: FT FILE

PARLIAMENT was yesterday told that there was a need for a review of the State’s Free Medicine Scheme.
National Federation Party MP Parmod Chand made the comment yesterday while delivering his end of week statement in Parliament.
He claimed the Free Medicine Scheme was in a shambolic state and needed to be reviewed urgently to bring about efficiency and to ensure it was fully maximised by eligible recipients.
Mr Chand claimed one of the promises of FijiFirst was the provision of providing all price control prescribed medicines that would be prescribed by doctors, even for non-communicable diseases (NCD), for those earning less than $20,000 per annum.
“When the scheme was rolled out, a Ministry of Health circular clearly stated that those who qualify for the scheme are adults over 18 years of age earning less than $20,000 per annum and individuals less than 18 years old if their combined parental income is less than $20,000 per annum.”
Mr Chand claimed that the retail pharmacies had been forced to participate in the free medicine scheme because if they did not, they were liable to be slapped with a $100,000 fine.
“Retail pharmacies have to provide space to store free medicine or whatever stock is supplied. Then their staff have to manually record recipient’s details and also that of the prescription.
“All this is done manually.”
He stated that the pharmacies needed to be equipped with computers or if not, link one of their computers to the ministry’s database of eligible recipients.
In response, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said they were trying to get the software and were working with the Indian government to get all pharmacies connected.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it was incorrect to say that children didn’t get free medicine.
“The Free Medicine Scheme is something that is being reviewed, we are trying to get the software, we are working with the Indian Government to get all of the pharmacies connected,” he said.
He said there were issues not only between private pharmacies, but with the hospital system itself.
The free medicine program was announced in the 2014 National Budget and came into effect on January 1, 2015.

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