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Pharmacies in jeopardy as vaccine deal hits a snag

Pharmacies in jeopardy as government fails to pay for vaccination services
Written by Max Matavire

A number of rural pharmacies are facing closure after the government failed to pay them for vaccinating people without medical insurance against COVID-19.

The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) said that some pharmacies are owed over R1-million.

ICPA CEO, Jackie Maimim, said the health department was meant to pay these pharmacies for operating as vaccination sites for those without medical insurance.

Claims not met

”The agreement was that if we vaccinate the uninsured, we will get a cost recovery fee from the government. Simply, this was a reimbursement for the use of our syringes, needles, our nursing staff, and administration work. But, the problem is that our claims are not being met when we submit,” said Maimim.

He added: ”The process is complex because multiple affiliates are involved. We understand that, but this is affecting some of our members, mostly rural pharmacists. Up to 99% of the people they vaccinate don’t have medical aid. Some are even saying they cannot carry on like this.”

Health ministry working on it

The Health Ministry said it is committed to resolving the issue and that it is in talks with the affected pharmacies.

Department of Health spokesperson, Foster Mohale, said that this is the first time government has entered into such a partnership, involving such a large-scale rollout.

”It took months for the parties to agree to the contents of the Vaccine Sale and Distribution Augment (SDA). They also had to reach consensus on how to verify the vaccines that each party is responsible for (vaccine costs and services costs),” said Mohale.

Measures in place

He said measures are in place to simplify the complicated process.

”The verification process and the terms for invoicing and payment are finally sorted and the time allowed for claims to medical schemes has been extended by 120 days. The credit to be allocated to customers and the debt owing to the department are indeed large sums of money.”

Mohale said they are trying to speed up the verification of medical scheme membership data.

“The department has established a dedicated Vaccination Reimbursement Unit and has added personnel to assist,” said Mohale.

The ICPA represents over 1100 community pharmacies across South Africa. – Health-e News 

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Max Matavire