This is how the pharmacy emergency service works

It’s the complaints that you didn’t expect, in the evening, at the weekend. A medication to relieve the pain would then be preferred immediately, not only after an agonizing night or on the next working day. That’s why there is an emergency pharmacy service. On-call doctors also refer their patients to the appropriate address so that they can take the right medicine quickly. Where the next pharmacy on duty is, you can find out from the newspaper or look on the internet. At every pharmacy there is also a sign with this information.

The emergency service has been organized by the bavarian chamber of pharmacists since 1987. Previously, the district authorities were responsible for it. In munich, three employees are involved in duty scheduling, as we learn from the chamber’s press spokesman, werner kurzlechner. As early as october, the schedule for the whole of the following year is presented. Over the year, the colleagues had to deal with updates, in addition to other tasks. Every change goes through their desks – for example, if a pharmacy is no longer available due to closure or if a change of service is necessary due to illness or other reasons. The service groups were not defined strictly according to county borders. For example, a pharmacy in itzgrund was assigned to the southern district in the district of lichtenfels, while the one in weidhausen was assigned to the northern district. In the alpine region, people sometimes look to austria or baden-wurttemberg. In general, no one should have to accept an additional journey of more than 15 kilometers, as the spokesman explains. But this has become more difficult due to the decreasing number of pharmacies. The fewer pharmacies there are in a region, the more services they have to provide. In the lichtenfels area, a pharmacy is on duty an average of 29 times a year, on every 13 days. Day. According to kurzlechner, this is "a good average. It is changed every day. In the past, the emergency service lasted a whole week. Hartmut pensel still remembers it. He has been a pharmacist in lichtenfels for around 30 years, and night and sunday duty have been part of his job for just as long.

He believes that the number of customers at these times has decreased in recent years. He associates this not least with the fact that doctors in private practice are also paying more attention to no longer being available around the clock. Today, he is rarely called out in the middle of the night, says pensel. The demanding attitude that "the pharmacist has to be there anyway", but there are still some people who ask for change for the cigarette machine or take a few headache pills on the way to work at half past four in the morning. But such cases are the exception.

In pensel’s council pharmacy, it makes a big difference whether the emergency service falls on a weekday or on the weekend: on sundays, about ten times as many patients can be expected; 30 to 50 are then on duty, and after a series of holidays he has already had 90. "You’re pushing yourself to the limit", says the pharmacist. But he never gets bored in the emergency service, even during the week. He could then work off something or read something in a professional journal. In addition to the computer, there is also a television in the pharmacy. He never gets a moment’s rest in his office before midnight, and he doesn’t sleep like he does at home.

In contrast to earlier years, when the service had to be performed without any remuneration, since 2013 there has been a lump sum from the german pharmacists’ association’s night and emergency service fund, which was set up specifically for this purpose. Currently it amounts to 280 euros. The money comes from a rough community: the price of each prescription drug includes a surcharge (currently 21 cents), which is used for this purpose.

Bureaucracy and competition

Despite this improvement, it has become less attractive to be an independent pharmacist. In hartmut pensel’s view, this is due to the workload caused by an increase in bureaucratic work. Older colleagues find it difficult to find successors. Branch foundations could avoid a rapid decline of pharmacies in the free state – otherwise not even the half would have been available anymore. And then there is the online competition. They don’t do emergency services and they don’t offer any other services for free. It’s still up to the customer to decide whether pharmacies stay local, emphasizes hartmut pensel. After an excavation, there is no going back to the usual supply situation: "what’s closed is closed."

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