Pay us on time!
This was the appeal made today by local private pharmacists who are crying out for timely payments from the Barbados Drug Service (BDS).
Complaining that the late payments had put them under tremendous strain and stress over the past two months in particular, they said while no layoffs were currently contemplated, they were struggling to pay staff and to restock their businesses.
“We have been trying to make sure that we keep out businesses open. We are trying to keep our staff and most importantly our patients healthy. The least the Government can do is meet us halfway and pay us on time,” said spokesman George Alleyne, a member of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society and the Drug Tender Committee.
With more than 50 of the approximately 90 registered pharmacies said to be affected, Alleyne explained that payments were no longer guaranteed by the 28th of each month, resulting in higher charges for them in terms of late fees and interest charges.
The private pharmacist also reported that there was an emotional toll due to rising levels of frustration and resentment within the pharmacy community.
“Our creditors don’t give us a day. The banks don’t give us a day. So it has been causing a lot of strain on us, the very small businesses. We have our staff to take care of. We have to make sure we get back stock for the patients. It is really a big problem with Government paying us late two consecutive months and there is no end in sight because we can’t even tell what is going to happen next month and at the end of this month,” he said.
“The point about it is that when you pay me late, my bank charges and creditors putting on interest on what I owe them and I am out [of pocket]. There is no way of recovery.
“When it comes to the drug service, I can’t tell the patient let me increase the price of this item. It is a set standard price. So I have to bear that loss. The point about it is that we are small and we are trying to make sure that we keep ourselves afloat,” he said while complaining that there had been “little to no communication” from the BDS on the matter.
“Last month when it happened, at the point before we get paid the Minister [of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic] said he didn’t even know that we were not paid,” Alleyne reported, while appealing for the payments to be made in a timely fashion.
“All we get from the ministry usually is that the payments are going to be late. We get that from the drug service. We get that when we get people go try to collect their payment on the time they are supposed to, and they find that there is nothing there. It is not a situation where we are told beforehand that we are not going to be paid early,” he explained while suggesting that the only saving grace for them right now was a cooperative which they have developed among themselves.
“We have a little network running amongst the pharmacies where if I have a little excess I make sure you get and we make sure we treat our customers and keep ourselves afloat,” he said.
“But right now we need help from Government. We need Government to be on board and make sure we get our payments in a timely fashion that we can move forward with our businesses,” he stressed.
Calls to BDS Director Maryam Hinds were not returned up to the time of publication.