The Czech Chamber of Pharmacists (ČLnK) has raised the alarm over the gradual disappearance of pharmacies across most regions of the Czech Republic. According to the chamber’s annual report, while there were 2,601 pharmacies in the country in 2014, only 2,498 remained in 2021. The decrease was mainly observed in the Moravian-Silesian, Olomouc, Ústí nad Labem, and Liberec regions, while the number of pharmacies increased only in Prague and the Central Bohemian Region. The shortage of pharmacies has left people with no option but to travel long distances, even during acute emergencies at night, because there are no emergency pharmacies.
The chamber has attributed the disappearance of pharmacies to the long-standing lack of funds in the area and is requesting a new financing system that it is discussing with the Ministry of Health. The President of the pharmacists, Aleš Krebs, has warned that many villages will see an increase in the number of pharmacies being closed, and the pharmacy network will decrease. Many pharmacies are on the brink of profitability, with some villages having excess pharmacies. Krebs emphasized that pharmacies should be established where they are needed regarding patients.
The lack of emergency pharmacies is also a significant issue in some regions, with some areas not having 24-hour pharmacies. The biggest problem is in the Ústí nad Labem and Liberec regions, where patients sometimes travel to Prague for medication. The chamber’s spokesperson, Michaela Bažantová, stated that a 24-hour pharmacy is a charity that is not economically feasible.
Pharmacists also complain that the state rewards them based on the cost of the drugs they dispense, resulting in unfair remuneration. The chamber is advocating for more fixed payments for the work of pharmacists, regardless of the price of the medications administered. Additionally, pharmacists’ salaries are not increasing in proportion to the rising costs, and in some cases, the opening hours of pharmacies are being shortened. The average age of operators is also growing, with many being sixty or seventy years old, creating a problem similar to that of general practitioners.
Pharmacists have reimbursement from health insurance companies for the drugs they dispense, but this is not enough to cover all their expenses. The Chamber of Pharmacists wants a broader financing system to ensure that the country has an adequate number of pharmacies accessible to all citizens.