Free medicine scheme tweaked: MP Chand

Parmod Chand at Parliament. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

THE Free Medicine Scheme has been labelled as another attempt to launch something which was already free for all individuals, says Opposition MP Parmod Chand.

While speaking on the 2018-2019 National Budget in Parliament this week, he said no consultations about the scheme were carried out among stakeholders.

“The Free Medicine Scheme has been tweaked and pharmacies will now dispense from the list of 142 free medicines and send a bill every month to the ministry instead of being supplied the medicines as has been the case,” he said.

“We note that this is the third attempt to launch something which is already free for all individuals in the public health system in the last four budgets.

“But this will not resolve the problem of those recipients under this scheme to access any medication prescribed by a doctor. The tweaked process falls far short of what is required for logistical integrity.

“The private retail pharmacists are not supported logistically with equipment and human resources and are still unaware of the balance of items after two years.

“The tangential vision is that the private sector will purchase the medication and Government will reimburse the private sector. Additionally, the importation of substandard pharmaceuticals and consumables had to be addressed with the Pharmaceutical Products Act in 2013-2014.

“Some items in Fiji are not even approved in the countries of origin and, this is unacceptable.”

He added general practitioners were now being encouraged to set up practices in rural maritime and peri-urban areas.

He said this was a stop-gap measure.

“We understand that no consultation has taken place with the stakeholders in the private practice, namely the Fiji College of Practitioners as to the program’s feasibility or sustainability.”