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CITY PRESS Facing the threat of being bullied out of business, independent retailers stand up to major retailers and call on the health department to change authorisation criteria The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) is set to ask the department of health to place a moratorium on the issuing of pharmacy licences amid increasing complaints by its members of corporate bullying by major retailers. ICPA chief executive Jackie Maimin said the issue of corporate bullying was the biggest problem the organisation's members complained about, and this triggered the decision to call for a moratorium. Maimin's organisation represents 3 000 pharmacists and in excess of 20 000 support personnel across 1 200 independently owned pharmacies. Government's licensing criteria has made business difficult and has led to pharmacies closing down in rural areas and more opening in urban areas, according to the ICPA. Government assesses licence applications according to the population in an area, proximity and foot traffic in shopping malls. One licence is granted per 500 people in urban areas in – rural areas, it's one licence per 2 500 people. Pharmacies are allowed to be closer than 500m together in urban areas and need to be at least 5km apart in rural areas. One pharmacy is allowed in shopping malls in urban and rural areas with a foot traffic count of 50 000. "The ICPA supports the first two criteria, however, we do not support the third, which overrides the first two. This supports corporate big business and has absolutely nothing to do with patient needs," Maimin said. "We find it very unfortunate that the national department of health has bowed to pressure from big business to allow pharmacies into every mall and new shopping centre, irrespective of established pharmacies in the area and whether there is a need for them or not. "Licences must only be granted where patients need pharmaceutical care," she said. Maimin said the mall requirement had made it easier for malls to have multiple pharmacies under the same roof and for smaller pharmacies to be bought out. "What makes it even worse is that the mall developers and corporates collude against the independent pharmacies, which, in some cases, don't speak out because they fear being victimised. Others have signed nondisclosure agreements," she said. Maimin said the tactics corporates used seemed to be similar in most cases and the consequences of going against them were unpleasant. "These corporates sometimes even blacklist independent pharmacies by colluding with mall owners and just give them an ultimatum either allow the large pharmacy to operate, or get less rent from a small pharmacy," she said, adding that the ICPA had on several occasions commented on the regulation reviews, and it was advocating that only the two criteria it agrees with be retained. "If they protect the independent pharmacies, the pharmacists live within the communities, they employ locals and the money stays in the communities the same cannot be said about corporates," she added. More bullying uncovered Following City Press' articles last week about corporates bullying smaller pharmacies out of shopping centres, more independent pharmacies have come forward. Several independent pharmacists, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, have told of their experiences of being bullied out of shopping centres. Some of these tactics include increasing rent overnight, and hostile treatment from landlords after an attempted buyout fails. According to one pharmacist, one of the major pharmaceutical companies, Clicks, approached him every year for almost a decade and, when it stopped, the landlord upped the rent by almost double and announced Clicks would be moving in less than 100m from him in the same 10 store shopping centre. Regulations preclude a centre with less than 15 shops from having two pharmacies. The pharmacist said that if Clicks opened in the shopping centre, which is the only one in his small town in the Northern Cape, he would have to work for Clicks, stop trading altogether or leave his home town to work somewhere else. Another independent pharmacist based in Johannesburg said the same strategy had been used on him, and he said he was still fighting off advances and pressure from the landlord. Clicks spokesperson Susann Caminada maintained that the company, which is the largest retail pharmacy with 528 stores across the country, observed high professional standards. "The demand for Clicks to open pharmacies often comes from landlords, who determine the style and tenant mix for their shopping centres. In addition to being a dispensary, Clicks provides customers with a compelling front shop offering, which means that customers have more choice and an improved overall shopping experience. This makes Clicks an attractive tenant," she said. Questions sent to the department of health, which issues the licences, went unanswered.
Created at 2019/03/25 02:29 PM by Mediclinic
Last modified at 2019/03/25 02:29 PM by Mediclinic