Another group has taken the legal route to try to prevent a government decision to reduce expenditure, this time the Minister of Health’s decision to reduce payments to pharmacists for dispensing drugs to patients. Eilish O’Regan, the Irish Independent’s health correspondent, has two good articles outlining both the background to the dispute and giving some details on the money at stake to individual pharmacies in today’s issue of that paper.
The case (see Irish Times report here), which is being taken by the Haire group of pharmacies, claims that the cuts will push it into a loss-making situation meaning it cannot repay its bank loans and will thus become insolvent. The pharmacies want an injunction restraining the Minister applying the regulations. Among various claims, they allege failure to provide 30 days notice of the change in the payment regime was unlawful and breached their constitutional rights. The case is being prosecuted by Gerard Hogan, SC who is also representing the teachers taking a case against the government for closing their early retirement scheme. The application for the injunction will be heard on Monday next.
If the main argument made by the pharmacies is that the Minister did not give the required 30-day notice, this would appear to simply delay rather than prevent the implementation of the cuts, which seems a lot of money simply for a few months’ reprieve. If the Minister lost on that basis, I presume she would simply start the process again giving proper notice. One assumes that the pharmacies want to prevent the cuts indefinitely, but the basis for this argument is not clear from the reports.