We Need To Facilitate Discourse From A Wider Cross-Section Of The Profession, Writes Fintan Moore

At time of writing, the votes have been cast in this year’s round of IPU elections, so it’s now just a matter of waiting for them to be counted and seeing who has come out on top. Fair play to everyone who put themselves forward — it takes a certain kind of courage to put yourself out there to be judged by the voters. It also takes a high level of commitment to follow through and serve, if elected. As always with these elections, some pharmacists have been very aware and involved in the whole process, some have been bordering on the oblivious, and many have landed somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum. Now that the dust is settling, there is one feature of how these elections play out online that needs to improve — namely, the need for a greater diversity of perspective. The problem is instantly apparent if you look at any election-related thread on the main online pharmacy forum, which is Pharmabuddy. Despite the majority of the pharmacists in the country being female, and the age of the majority being under 45, I reckon that 90 per cent of the comments posted came from men in their mid-50s or older. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve nothing against men in their 50s, being one myself, but

there’s something not quite right when guys like me are completely dominating the threads. And it’s not like we’re lighting-up the room with sparkling wit and observation, so I think some fresh opinions would be welcome. Then why aren’t we seeing more of them?

I suspect part of the problem lies with the tone of some of the online commentary

I suspect part of the problem lies with the tone of some of the online commentary. What some people refer to as ‘robust debate’ is what others regard as negative and hostile. Personally, I don’t mind a bit of verbal jousting — it’s only words, and I’ve been threatened often enough in the real world to regard an online ‘cutting remark’ as kind of cute, like when a kitten pounces on your slipper. However, I suspect most pharmacists simply can’t be bothered to put up with the negativity, and choose to opt out instead. So I much prefer a ‘discussion’ to a ‘debate’, because discussions tend to be a lot more informative, with more people willing to participate. There is a challenge ahead to facilitate discourse from a wider cross section of the profession, and let’s hope that we see it happen. GRAND OR NO GRAND Given that the Covid pandemic is not yet over, although there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, I would like to think that we’re being governed by politicians with a minimum level of cop-on. You know what I mean — in the face of an ongoing crisis, it’s nice to think that we don’t have someone like Boris Johnson pulling the levers of power, and that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have just enough innate common sense to keep things steady. Then they do something dumb, like throw a thousand euro to everybody in the audience, or rather, to some of the people in the audience. Yes, of course front-line workers deserve a reward, but figuring out where to draw the line on who was on the front-line is impossible. So, the government is about to spend €100,000,000 on a divisive measure that will thoroughly piss off more people than it pleases, and tie Ministers up in knots defending it at a time they when they still have actual work to do. Frontline workers didn’t go the extra mile in the hope of a few quid down the line, and I reckon the vast majority of them would prefer to see the money re-invested into shortening waiting lists or improving long-term ICU capacity. 


Mary Lou McDonald ruffled a few feathers recently when she referred to the country having a ‘constipated’ Public Sector. Politicians of other parties jumped to the defence of our hardworking and dedicated public sector workers, although it’s likely that they would privately feel the same. Mary Lou’s point was directed more at a failure of work practices to move, rather than the workers themselves, which may be splitting hairs a bit. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see the kind of thing she’s talking about. For starters, the Hardship Scheme is a nonsense which costs more in administration than it saves, while reducing the quality of care for patients who have to negotiate the bureaucracy. Even if the PCRS identified the main 50 items which get processed on Hardship and assigned these items GMS codes, that would eliminate a lot of the surplus paperwork. Approvals for phased dispensing should be instantly life-long for anyone over 80 years old, and at least one year for anyone younger. Similarly, ONS approvals should be automatically one year long. Methadone Scheme processing should be electronic. These are just small things that would improve processes for us, and save on staff time in the HSE.