Wednesday 13 April 2022, 02:50 AM
2 minutes to Read
Labour MP Tracey McLellan intends to advance conversations with officials about script fees [Image: Supplied]
Pharmacy Today reporter Paulette Crowley finds some political interest in the practice of large pharmacies providing free prescriptions to consumers, as the practice impacts on the wider pharmacy sector.
The “predatory” business model used by discount pharmacy chains is being looked into by an MP
after being alerted to the issue by a fellow MP Australian-based Countdown and Chemist Warehouse, along with New Zealand-owned Bargain Chemist, absorb the $5 prescription co-payment charge, often to the detriment of surrounding independent pharmacies.
Tracey McLellan, the Labour MP for Banks Peninsula who sits on the Government’s health select committee, told Pharmacy Today she is talking to pharmacists about their concerns after Wigram MP Megan Woods alerted her to the issue.
Dr McLellan says she is aware of pharmacies being forced to close after discounters in their area
“Some pharmacists have also told me that the discounters are doing all of the easy scripts and
leaving all of the complicated ones for community pharmacists to do.
“It does seem like a predatory business model.”
14/04/2022, 15:57 MP queries discount pharmacy model | New Zealand Doctor
However, Chemist Warehouse chief executive Azman Haroon says his pharmacies fill all prescriptions presented in their stores.
“There may be times during an out-of-stock situation or a prescription item that may take longer
to source or prepare, that we offer the patient an option of coming back,
” he says in an email.
He adds that Chemist Warehouse pharmacies will continue to absorb the $5 co-payment to “make
healthcare more affordable and accessible for all Kiwis”.
Bargain Chemist director Atif Malkonyan says their pharmacists endeavour to fill every prescription,
unless raw ingredients are un-procurable. Then they would refer the prescription to another pharmacy
able to help.
“We do not pick and choose the easy ones, as every patient is important to us, ” he told Pharmacy Today
14/04/2022, 15:57 MP queries discount pharmacy model | New Zealand Doctor
All 39 Countdown Pharmacies offer “free prescriptions” after others in the market did this first, Jeremy Armes, Countdown’s merchandise manager – pharmacy told Pharmacy Today in an email.
Mr Armes says Countdown Pharmacies take contractual obligations under the Integrated Community Pharmacy Services Agreement very seriously and have never engaged in the “cherrypicking” practice. However, he adds, some dispensing decisions may come down to human nature.
“We wouldn’t condone the behaviour at Countdown Pharmacy, but some people will always be drawn to
completing easier tasks and let others complete the more difficult.”
Dr McLellan says, although she’s not working on anything specific to prompt government intervention on the co-payment issue, she intends to advance conversations with officials and continue to talk with community pharmacists.
“All change starts with a discussion.”
Cabinet minister Dr Woods alerted Dr McLellan to the discounters’ practices after asking Christchurch
pharmacist Des Bailey, president of the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, about it.
Mr Bailey says Dr Woods raised the discounter issue after asking about workforce burnout when she was
on a constituency visit to his pharmacy in late February.
The Selwyn Village Pharmacy owner says he welcomed the interest from a Cabinet minister and Dr McLellan, and hopes the issue will be picked up from a political angle, rather than a financial one.
The Commerce Commission told Pharmacy Today in 2019 that it didn’t consider the discounters had
predatory pricing as they didn’t have “substantial market power”. The body considered the practice of
free scripts to be greater competition, and wouldn’t look at the matter further, senior communications
adviser Christian Bonnevie said.
This followed Wellington pharmacists Angela Liu and Andrew Irvin complaining to the commission
about anti-competitive behaviour on the part of discounters.
Mr Bailey tells Pharmacy Today: “It sends an ambiguous signal to the consumers when somebody’s charging $5 and somebody’s not.”
“Really, the discounters are manipulating that co-payment to get you into the store to buy a whole
lot of other stuff. If we’re going to have one Health New Zealand and all the 20 DHB’s gone, it would
make sense that we’re all operating off the same platform.”
Mr Bailey adds the co-payment issue exacerbates inequity for people who don’t have access to free
prescriptions in their area.
Professor Paul Hunt
Chief Human Rights Commissioner
31 August 2021
Dear Professor Hunt,
Thank-you for the work the Human Rights Commission has done producing your ‘Framework
Guidelines on the right to a decent home in Aotearoa’ and the welcome announcement that there
will be a National Inquiry into housing referencing Article Three of The Treaty.
United Community Action Network (UCAN) is a Wellington-based community organisation that
works to raise the health and well being issues of marginalized communities and people to
enhance community health, wellness and quality of life for all people.
We have spent much of the last decade searching for a Crown agency willing to provide
substantive support for the housing element in our UCAN Health Charter (attached). The Charter
has been endorsed by over twenty significant organisations, representatives of the two parties in
government, and many people as individuals.
We share all the concerns you have outlined. We have found that, at least in the Wellington
Region, there has been no public agency willing to take responsibility for equal access to decent
housing for people with enduring mental illness. Health, housing, welfare and local authorities
have all referred us on to another organisation in a never ending circle. Your points about
accountability align exactly with our experience.
Over this period there have been a series of tragic events as a result of this systemic neglect. We
are directly involved in the inquest following the death of Kiaong Tan in 2016. We expect the
Coroner’s report to be completed soon and reveal very significant failures to provide ‘decent
homes’. Previous Coroners’ reports have criticised the same failings.
However we have been told that at present there are some attempts to reorient the health system
and address problems that have been revealed as support and services were withdrawn or limited
for people in these situations.
We are keen to meet with you to ensure that the National Inquiry into housing has a strong focus
on the housing needs for people with mental health needs and discuss how we can contribute to
the progressive realisation of decent homes for all, particularly for people with disabilities and
specifically for those with mental illness.
Media release from UCAN – United Community Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand
Thursday 30 December 2021
Many people on limited incomes are excluded from the freedoms offered by the COVID-19 Vaccine Pass, says health rights lobby group UCAN – United Community Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand.
A major problem lies with the technology required to get a pass, says spokesperson Debbie Leyland.
UCAN is concerned about people living on income assistance, many of whom are older or have disabilities or mental health issues and would struggle with the COVID-19 website. Some of these people cannot afford to have much data on their phones, and others do not have a smartphone.
The printed pass and help from a pharmacy are among the solutions the Government offers for people who lack internet or can’t work out the vaccine pass system, but only pharmacies providing vaccinations can help people with the passes.
Ms Leyland says even these pharmacies can’t help if the person is homeless and doesn’t have an address.
People without money for transport are also disadvantaged in trying to get a vaccine pass.
UCAN calls on the Government to work with community organisations to open up more avenues of help for vaccinated people to get their vaccine passes. Without this, some people will continue to be marginalized, says Debbie Leyland.
UCAN spokesperson Debbie Leyland can be contacted for interview on 022 195 3178
The United Community Action Network (UCAN) is a collective of individuals and organisations working to implement the UCAN Health Charter.
Joel MacManus14:54, Nov 25 2021 Stuff
Wellington will trial fare-free or heavily discounted public transport on weekends next March.
The one-month trial, which is likely to apply to all bus and train services in the region, will largely be to explore new fare structures.
The trial was approved by Greater Wellington Regional Council at a Transport Committee meeting on Thursday.
Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher said the trial would help to prepare for the national integrated ticketing project, a new smartcard for payment for all public transport being developed by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
“We want to test the resilience of the network if we suddenly have public transport that’s free on weekends…. are the travel patterns much different to what we currently see and if they are different, what are those patterns?” he said.
Metlink has already rolled out a number of new payment trials, including adding Snapper card payment to the Johnsonville rail line, and removing cash payments for some express bus services.
Gallacher said one possibility under national integrated ticketing would be a weekly capped fare – where, for example, any weekly trips over a certain number would be free.
“What we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, regular users of public transport hit the cap on Friday or Saturday which means any further travel is going to be free,” he said.
Gallacher’s Metlink team will come back to the council in February with more details of the trial, which he said may be expanded in some way to test other changes as well.
Both Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council have formally expressed support for the Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity, which is calling for free public transport for students, under 25s and Community Services.
Regional councillor Thomas Nash said he was hoping the Government’s Budget in 2022 would include a boost for public transport, including a change to the farebox recovery ratio (the portion of the Metlink network operating costs covered by fares versus rates and taxes).
“This has got to be a partnership between central government and regional councils. Ideally, we would be moving towards less farebox recovery. Most successful, equitable and high mode shifts systems around the world have less than in New Zealand,” he said.
He was also interested in trialling free fares on specific bus routes, citing newly elected Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who took steps to make three major bus lines free on her first day in office.
“We could be looking at targeting free public transport on routes that are in areas where people are going to benefit more, lower socio-economic areas. We could be considering that for Waitangirua, Strathmore, or Naenae for example”.
The trial will be delivered under the National Ticketing Solution and jointly funded by the council and the transport agency.
UCAN has joined the Free Fares Coalition.
It’s not totally what the UCAN Charter calls for, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Free Public Transport is one of the elements surrounding good public health.
Free Fares campaign now live
As part of our work to [promote family well being], we have joined with dozens of organizations from around New Zealand to support the Free Fares Campaign. Together we are calling on Transport Minister Michael Wood to make public transport FREE for all under-25s, tertiary students and Community Service Card holders.
Free fares would be a step to support people, families and communities. Everyone should be able to afford public transport, but the high cost leaves many people reliant on private cars or disconnected from their community. We want to see everyone able to participate fully in society – including those on low incomes – so that people and our communities thrive.
Free fares is also a step to address climate change. Public transport is climate-friendly, but it needs to be affordable to be a viable option. The government is currently shaping its ‘Emissions Reduction Plan’ to respond to climate change. We want them to include free fares as one equitable and courageous action on the scale our climate needs.
Now is the moment for free fares
New Zealand should be a place where everyone can afford public transport to stay connected, enjoy our regions, and travel in a way that’s kind to the environment. But with the high cost of public transport, many people can only afford to travel by private car, causing congestion and harmful carbon emissions.
If you also want to see free fares, sign the petition here:
Kate Day Advocacy Enabler
Anglican Movement 022 315 6499
Eileen Brown John Maynard and Debbie Leyland meet with Paul Eagle.
We talked with MP Paul Eagle and his advisor, Brian Dawson and covered:
- The mental health needs and unmet needs of people living in Rongotai and the continued lack of recognition of the importance of community facilities and housing needs.
- The lack of any engagement structure at the DHB level to advocate for people with mental health and their family’s needs
- Having a community meeting on mental health, a listening meeting
- That there needs to be an update on the Mental Health Plan – Te Ara Oranga
- The lack of communication and activity and responsiveness on the development of locality plans in Rongotai as previously promoted by the DHB and to be a structure within the new health reforms and legislation
- That locality plans should be based on community led development models
- Promotion of the UCAN charter and some of the specific actions in this plan e.g., abolishing the pharmacy charge
- Paul to raise locality plans with the DHBs when meets Local officials this week
- UCAN and Paul to discuss with other MPs in this area– Greg O Connor, Grant Robertson and Barbara Edmonds about progress on locality plans and discuss the model.
[ First Posted 10 September 2021]
UCAN members are meeting with Paul Eagle on October 4th to discuss establishing a mental health service in South-East Wellington.
This is to ensure that people in this region get the mental health services they are entitled to.
We are also meeting with a local Pharmacist, community Psychiatrist, and other like-minded people that are able to make this happen.
Please check our web site, to be updated on the progress of this project.
“This year there will be thousands of families who won’t be able to afford Christmas. They have no Christmas tree and their children will wake up on Christmas morning in a cold damp house with no presents and no food,” said UCAN’s chairperson Debbie Leyland to the group of 60 gathered in front of parliament. Rally organizer, youth advisor to UCAN and beneficiary Stacey Ryan said it wasn’t just parents and children locked in poverty by the inadequate income support rates.
“Disabled and chronically ill people all over Aotearoa need help, and we need it now. This is not just about Christmas, this is about survival,” said Ryan.
“The demonstration has been organized by the United Community Action Network (UCAN) after more than 40 welfare and poverty charities signed an open letter to the Government pleading for them to increase welfare in the lead up to Christmas…They are all going to go to homes that they own and they are going to have big dinners and lunches and gifts for all of the family and I want them to see the faces and hear the voices of people who don’t have that opportunity. The real people who are affected by the decisions that they are denying us.”
As we all know, The Labour Party’s recent election campaign focused heavily on “eliminating poverty in New Zealand”. However, now that they hold the majority in government, they have said that “this is a problem that cannot be fixed in a month, a year, or even a term”.
They seem to have U-turned on this policy. Anger and indignation on this stance are rife throughout the country.
In response to this, UCAN and other groups have organised a picket protest outside of Parliament on Tuesday December 8th, gathering from 1:30pm and beginning at 2pm when Parliament rises for the day. At the same time, there will be a partner protest outside of Jacinda Ardern’s MP office in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, being run by AAAP, another in Ōtepoti, Dunedin, and also in Ōtautahi, Christchurch.
Bring your signs and banners for the day.
We are looking for speakers for the Wellington event. You can contact the organiser at email@example.com or 0226942372.
After the protest, Ricardo Menendez-March of the Green Party, Spokesperson for Social Development and Employment, has reserved seats for protestors to watch his Maiden Speech in Parliament at 4:30pm.