A vote by the Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association on Wednesday gave the final nod for private pharmacists to join GESY, the biggest healthcare overhaul in Cyprus.
According to local media, the network of private pharmacists with over 500 members held a vote on Wednesday evening with some 300 members voting up or down on a deal with the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) could go forward. The votes in favour of joining GESY (National Healthcare Plan) were 165 while 139 voted against the deal, with some members expressing concern over the viability of the private pharmacy.
The deal provides for pharmacists getting paid extra for working outside regular business hours, with night shifts being paid an extra €70, Saturdays with €100 and Sundays with €200, all on top of their regular compensation through GESY.
HIO will also provide financial incentives to private pharmacy owners who wish to merge or come under the same business roof with their colleagues in exchange for €25,000. The same amount is also being offered to pharmacists who will set shop in rural areas.
Non-prescription medicines will not be covered under the GESY reimbursement plan, while switching from a generic drug to more expensive brands carry a €1 charge plus the price difference only
Pharmacists have been accused in the media of being overpaid due to high profit margins that had been written into law by lobbyists. A long-forgotten price formula also recently came under scrutiny, after it emerged that Greek Cypriots were paying higher prices at the private pharmacy counter based on a more expensive index compared to most European countries or even pharmacies in the north.
According to the new deal, pharmacists will be reimbursed through GESY for each medicine package item at a set price, with a minimum cost per unit being paid under a guarantee to cover any losses. Reimbursements will be filed every 15 days to ensure cash flow, according to the media reports.
Pharmacists who fill non-GESY prescription medications will be permitted to charge up to €5 for the execution of the order, while non-GESY prescriptions during normal hours will be charged according to current prices irrespective of GESY network prices.
Non-prescription medicines will not be covered under the GESY reimbursement plan, while switching from a generic drug to more expensive brands due to customer complaints will require only €1 to carry out the replacement plus the price difference, not the full price of the new item.
If a GESY doctor prescribes a specific brand name and not a generic drug, then GESY will reimburse the cost of the medication. The same goes for full reimbursement for brand name drugs if they do not have generic alternatives. Patients will not have to pay anything if medication is provided through the hospital.
Local media said some private pharmacists are still lobbying for vaccinations at local pharmacies, but this issue is far from over according to officials who say the matter needs further discussion. Additional outstanding issues include clarification on defining normal operating hours.