NEWS

Deal reached with pharmacists

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos on Wednesday reached a compromise with pharmacists – the next so-called closed profession that the government has resolved to open in a bid to boost lethargic growth and get the country?s beleaguered economy back on track.

According to the agreement, newly qualified pharmacists will be allowed to enter the profession by joining an existing pharmacy as a co-owner or co-manager but they will not be able to set up their own stores. This compromise aims to offer young pharmacists the opportunity to enter their chosen profession without burdening a market that already has one of the European Union?s most disproportionate ratios of pharmacies to inhabitants.

Loverdos reiterated that pharmacists would receive millions of euros owed to them by social security funds as long as they give the funds discounts on medicines. The pharmacists are to offer rebates on a sliding scale according to their turnover. The rebate will not apply for the first 3,000-4,000 euros of each pharmacist?s turnover.

The one major bone of contention in Wednesday?s talks regarded the proposed operation of all pharmacies on Saturdays. The pharmacists attending the talks did not accept the minister?s proposal that each pharmacist decide whether or not to open their business on Saturdays and that a minimum percentage of the total number of pharmacies in any particular region be set by the regional governor rather than the local pharmacists? association. The pharmacists proposed instead the ?cyclical? operation of between 20 and 25 percent of the total number of pharmacies in any area.

In a related development, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed that his government?s decision to open up the closed professions – a group of occupations ranging from pharmacists and notaries to taxi drivers and truck drivers – was ?final.? ?Some of our reforms will result in the loss of privileges as they strike at the long-established interests of the few that have existed at the expense of the most,? Papandreou said during a Cabinet meeting.

During the session, the premier called on more than 30 deputy ministers to propose one pilot project each every week from now onward with the aim of boosting sluggish growth and extracting the country from the current debt crisis. ?Our aim is for 2011 to be the last year of recession, for 2012 to see the resumption of growth and 2013 to bring an end to the scourges and frustrations of the past,? Papandreou said.