Managing Pharmacists and pharmacists in Government Health Centre Pharmacies

Dear Colleagues,

The Malta Chamber of Pharmacists notes that a directive issued by UHM to Government Health centre pharmacists came into force yesterday.
This directive states that health centre pharmacies are not to dispense items which are out of stock from POYC pharmacists. Patients presenting with an OOS note issued from a POYC pharmacist’s private practice are not being dispensed with medication from the Government primary health pharmacies.
You are surely aware that such a directive is illegal and unethical. All pharmacists irrespective of where they are practising are bound to give a service, at all times and under no circumstances are they to discriminate between patients.
This is in accordance to prevailing, code of ethics and the rights of people as patients and as European citizens.
Any policy or industrial action undertaken by health care professionals should take into consideration both legislation and code of ethics, which are mandatory on all, including policy makers, and not least union officials leading health care professionals.
For your guidance, the Chamber refers you to the following extract from the Code of Ethics of the Pharmacy Council: Paragraph 1.3, which deals with interest and well-being of patients and which states: ‘ …. that members of the pharmaceutical profession, irrespective of their area of practice, whether they have direct or indirect contact with patients must have as their prime objective the interest and wellbeing of the patient.
They must place concern for the well-being of the patient at the centre of their practice.
Members of the pharmaceutical profession must safeguard patient’s access to safe medicinal products which are of good quality and efficacy:’
And Paragraph 1.7 states that, ‘Members of the pharmaceutical profession must give the same dedication, care and attention to everyone without discrimination. In rendering a pharmaceutical service they must ensure that the individual needs of the patients are met, taking into consideration societal interest.
Moreover, your attention is also directed to the provisions of the Medicines Act, which at para.80 (1) states that:
‘A pharmacist shall prepare or dispense any medicinal product required by any person presenting a prescription unless he has a justified reason of concern that the prescription is false, that the person is misusing the prescribed medicinal product, or that the medicinal product is not available or if he has professional reasons for not preparing or dispensing the prescription.
Finally, in case of industrial action, pharmacists as responsible health care professionals are obliged to give an emergency service. The provision of out of stock items falls within the category of emergency services.
The Chamber sympathises with the legitimate industrial actions of pharmacists wherever they practice, but does not support these actions when they go against the fundamental principles of the profession, its code of ethics and the legislation regulating it.
In abiding by this directive pharmacists are also in breach of the preamble to the code of ethics which states that, they should avoid any act or omission within their sphere of responsibilities which would prejudice the provision of a pharmaceutical services: or can harm patient/client or society: or impair confidence in and respect of the profession.

The above is for your guidance, but the Chamber reserves the right to take remedial action in best interest of patients and of private community pharmacists and the successful implementation of the POYC.

We strongly urge all involved to review positions in the best interest of patients.

Yours sincerely

Mary Ann Sant Fournier

c.c. UHM officials,
CMTU President and Council
Chairman and members POYC Standing Advisory Committee
Community Pharmacists in the POYC
Director, POYC unit