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Less than 10 percent of pharmacies have joined the morning-after pill program. “'Plan B' failed”

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Only 850 out of 11,500 pharmacies across Poland signed up for the emergency contraception program and the sale of the morning-after pill, also to fifteen-year-olds. The program has been operating since May 1 and is the Ministry of Health's plan B against the presidential veto of the bill that was to abolish the prescription for the morning-after pill. But pharmacists and activists say the plan has failed. The National Health Fund spokesman reassures that over two thousand pharmacies will join the pilot.

In only 9 pharmacies in Szczecin, a pharmacist can write a prescription for the morning-after pill immediately, without waiting. The visit costs nothing, you only have to pay for the medicine. – We have carried out two such visits. Both ended with a pharmaceutical prescription – said Joanna Urbańska, a pharmacist from a pharmacy in Szczecin.

The pilot emergency contraception program has been operating since May 1, but only in a few pharmacies. Nationwide, out of approximately 11,500 pharmacies, only 850 signed up for the program, that's not even 10 percent. – Over 500 of them have already signed contracts with the National Health Fund, which means they already provide emergency contraception services – said Paweł Florek, spokesman for the National Health Fund.

The National Health Fund and the Supreme Pharmaceutical Chamber estimate that there will be more. – Over two thousand pharmacies will join the pilot. These are primarily those pharmacies that have already provided additional services, for example vaccinations during the pandemic – said Paweł Florek.

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There is a map of pharmacies where the pharmacist writes a prescription for the morning-after pill.

This is still not enough to ensure women's safety, warn activists of the “Abortion Without Borders” initiative. – Pharmacists, instead of facilitating access to this medicine, i.e. simply dispensing it in accordance with the regulation, unfortunately decided to create these barriers – says Natalia Broniarczyk from the Aborcjon Dream Team organization.

You can check the location of pharmacies that provide access to emergency contraception on the website patient.gov.pl. The map was published last week by the National Health Fund and is constantly updated.

READ ALSO: The National Health Fund has published a map of pharmacies that will sell the morning-after pill.

– This is a pilot, it is voluntary, so pharmacies must be willing to join it. There must be pharmacists who will provide this service – points out Tomasz Macherowski, pharmacist and manager of the pharmacy in Stargard. – Signing contracts, annexes, all this is paperwork, where not every pharmacy owner has to want to do it and they cannot be forced to do it – emphasizes Michał Bulsa, president of the District Medical Chamber in Szczecin.

The problem of lack of a separate room and doubts about prescriptions for minors

It's not always just about willingness. Some pharmacies, such as one operating in Stargard, do not meet the premises conditions. – It must be a separate room, closed, where we can sit comfortably with the patient and talk – explains Tomasz Macherowski.

Where the service is available, it is not known whether it will be available to everyone, as prescribing prescriptions to underage patients is controversial. – This is a matter solely for the pharmacist who conducts the interview – emphasizes Paweł Florek.

– We have a message from the president of the National Health Fund that we will not be penalized if we refuse such a visit – points out Joanna Urbańska. – It's sad because I think it will hit the hardest, and we see it in our work, on young people who are already abandoned by this system – says Natalia Broniarczyk.

The morning-after pill will be sold to people over 15 years of ageTVN24

The government's plan B failed?

The “morning after” pill as part of the pharmaceutical service is “Plan B” of the Ministry of Health. It was introduced after President Andrzej Duda vetoed the act on the availability of emergency contraception without a prescription. The new regulations allowed minors over 15 years of age to purchase the drug. – Not that the girl would buy herself a pill and, just in case, take five at a time, for example – the president argued in his veto.

SEE ALSO: Morning after pill. More than 50 percent of Poles evaluate the president's veto negatively

– “Plan B” failed, in my opinion it is ineffective. It was prepared somewhat quickly, partly to show that the government is doing something, says Natalia Broniarczyk. – I am very disappointed that politicians, instead of solving problems, have to use some kind of prosthesis and here, unfortunately, we have a prosthesis that does not fully work – says Michał Bulsa.

MPs from the New Left are asking women for patience and asking pharmacists to sign up for the program. – We will introduce it on a full scale as a statutory provision after Andrzej Duda ceases to be president – promises Tomasz Trela, MP of the New Left.

The prescription for emergency contraception was introduced by the Law and Justice government in 2017. – Women who need the “morning after” pill have learned over the last 7 years that help should be sought elsewhere than in the official health system and this change in the Ministry of Health, unfortunately, will not change this belief – says Natalia Broniarczyk.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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