Nfld. & Labrador

Pharmacists call Kennedy heavy-handed

Independent pharmacists are criticizing Health Minister Jerome Kennedy for his approach to handling their complaints about contract negotiations.
Health Minister Jerome Kennedy has made pharmacists unhappy with his changes to regulations regarding pharmacies pulling out of the provincial drug plan. (CBC)

Independent pharmacists are criticizing Health Minister Jerome Kennedy for his approach to handling their complaints about contract negotiations.

Sixty-five independent pharmacies — the majority of which are in rural areas — were looking to negotiate a separate contract with the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

Pharmacy owners said the nature of their businesses, and largely rural locations, resulted in them having different needs than the larger national chains. So they gave a month's notice that they would stop accepting provincial drug plan cards.

A few days before the boycott was to come into effect, Kennedy changed the regulations to require 120-days notice.

Robert Doyle, spokesperson of the Independent Pharmacy Owners association, said the move seems a little heavy-handed.

"Pharmacies could have to go to court and if found guilty, up to a $2,000 fine and six months in jail. So he's looking at putting a criminal offence against pharmacy owners," Doyle said. 

Doyle said the pharmacists just want to have their voices heard, but given the potential lawsuits they had no choice but to back down.

The end result was not what Doyle was hoping for, he said, and left him questioning the government's actions.

"Where's the democracy?" he said.