Last Updated: 2001-07-05 11:37:56 EDT (Reuters Health)
By Andrew Conaway
AMSTERDAM (Reuters Health) – Tensions between doctors and the government in The Netherlands were heightened this week by Department of Health proposals that would limit physicians' rights to run pharmacies within their practices.
The new regulations threaten the livelihood of the roughly 600 physicians–most in small towns–who rely on the extra income they get from operating a pharmacy in their practice, a doctors' union said.
Minister Els Borst came before the Health Committee of the Lower Chamber of Parliament in The Hague Wednesday to discuss the proposed new rules. The committee is expected to vote on the issue in late August, after the summer recess.
If they were to pass in current form, the rules would prohibit transfer of the pharmacy portion of the practice should the physician retire or otherwise transfer the practice to another doctor.
In addition, the proposal would weaken current rules that keep pharmacies from opening in areas where a doctor has a pharmacy practice.
"Those doctors are generally from the smaller villages where the average doctor's practice is smaller," said Fulco Seegers, spokesman for The Association of General Practitioners, which represents the approximately 7200 family doctors in Holland.
"Without this they will not earn the extra money to run a successful practice," he told Reuters Health.
Richard Lancee, a spokesman for the minister, said that the current rules allowing doctors to have a pharmacy practice were designed to alleviate a pharmacist shortfall in Holland several years ago. "But there is a completely different education for pharmacists than for doctors," he noted. "You have to know how drugs are combined and to watch for dangerous combinations."
The disagreement is the latest in a series of conflicts between doctors and the government in The Netherlands. In May of this year, doctors around the country staged a 3-day strike to protest several issues, among them low compensation in the face of rising costs associated with running a practice. Last month the doctors accepted a government proposal to increase that compensation by 483 million guilders annually.
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