Friday, February 8, 2008

Liberals fumble seniors' drug plan - Smitherman should resign

Tom McAnulty, a St. Catharines Ont. pharmacist, wrote in “I’m mad as hell” – Screw ups at the Ministry” (The Seniors Review, Niagara Edition, Feb.-Mar. 2008):

“I was taken off guard by the latest Ministry of health (MOH) missteps regarding what drugs were covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary (ODBF) plan – which helps pay for seniors’ medications – and which ones weren’t.

Normally, for routine antibiotics and the like, this has never been an issue, that is until, Monday Jan. 14. On that day the government of Ontario, in its infinite wisdom, delisted the majority of the commonly used antibiotics your doctors routinely use to treat a variety of everyday infections.

And how did this happen? Basically, it came down to stubbornness on the part of government officials charged with maintaining the health of the system that is supposed to serve your needs. As a result of this intransigence, pharmacists were forced to either 1) charge cash for prescriptions that should have been covered; 2) phone your doctor to ask for a covered alternative; or 3) send you back to the doctor to be reassessed and given another prescription for a covered product.”

Mr. McAnulty wrote that the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association “had warned the government back in October that this crisis would occur under the irrational rules they instated under the much-vaunted and criticized Transparent Drug System Patient Act (TDSPA).

In a nutshell, the generic companies that produce the bulk of these commonly prescribed antibiotics applied for some rather routine price increases. But really short-sighted thinking on the government’s part produced a technical legal bind that tied their own hands together: only one product in each category could be legally dispensed under the ODB plan, but unfortunately, could not be acquired due to limited supply and hugely overwhelming demand.

Meanwhile, your already-overworked doctor was being inundated with calls to switch prescriptions to a covered alternative, or, alternately, to see the patient again (in which he/she could not rebill the government due yet to another MOH regulation preventing same day/same reason/same person billing).

All of this served no purpose than to prove how incompetent the clowns in the MOH are at regulating your pharmacare program, while at the same time preventing doctors and pharmacist from delivering their highest quality healthcare, which they can and do deliver on any given day – and that you pay for through your taxes. All in all, a pretty poor performance.

Now, I don’t mind too much when the government treats me like dirt (through TDSPA), but when they start hurting my patients, I take it personally, as does, I might add, your doctor.

When the government minions screw up the rules so badly that no one can comply and the public suffers, it’s time to change the minions. Hard to believe that we reinstated these clowns in the last election.

So, what can you do to ensure that this never happens again? Complain to your local MPP – heck, show him your cash receipt from the pharmacy; write a letter to the Minister of Health George Smitherman, requesting the dismissal of the executive Officer in charge of the ODBF, Helen Stevenson, who caused this mess; and lastly, give your pharmacist a hug…it’s been a hard week.”

What is Liberal St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley's response to the issues raised in Mr. McAnulty’s above column?

Will Bradley call for an investigation into why this important health care issue was mis-handled by his Liberal government’s Ministry of Health, despite warnings from the Pharmacists’ Association? Will Bradley call for the resignation of his Liberal party's Health Minister, George Smitherman? Isn’t this Minister responsible for these screw-ups? Or does Bradley think that this, another instance in a lengthy string of Liberal health-care fiascos, was acceptable?

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