HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told Opposition MPs it was incorrect for them to assume that the Pharmacy Board is having financial issues if they do not have the facts on such matters.
He made this statement while responding to a question from the Opposition in the House of Representatives on Monday.
Deyalsingh said the Pharmacy Board is an independent legal entity.
Like similar bodies in TT, he said the board regulates its own affairs and is self-regulating.
"The question pre-supposes that the Pharmacy Board has financial issues as asked."
Deyalsingh said the financial status of any statutory body like the Pharmacy Board "can only be confirmed by the laying of audited financial statements before its membership at a meeting."
Referring to the issue of increased fees for pharmacists, Deyalsingh said, "The question of increase in fees must therefore be, a membership decision."
The ministry, he continued, has received legal advice that "says clearly that the Minister (of Health) can only act in accordance with Section 40 (1) (e) of the regulations of the Pharmacy Board."
Deyalsingh said that advice further states this happens only after consultation with the council (of the Pharmacy Board and the health minister cannot increase pharmacists' fees unilaterally.
Should any statutory body convene a meeting to discuss the issue of fee increases for its members and a decision is taken, Deyalsingh said that decision together with the that body's audited financial accounts can be sent "to the responsible line minister."
Should that minister agree with that body's decision, the minister takes a position to Cabinet and then the relevant legislative changes to the regulations governing that body are made and printed in the TT Gazette.
In a statement on January 17, the Health Ministry said, "Measures have been taken to ensure that there is no disruption of pharmaceutical services in either the public or the private health sector."
The ministry said Deyalsingh "signed the Pharmacy Board (Amendment) Regulations, 2023, which allow for a practising certificate which was valid and subsisting immediately before January 14, 2023, to remain in force until a certificate for the period January 15, 2023 to January 14, 2024, is issued, if the holder of the certificate has paid the required annual retention fee."
The ministry added that these regulations would be published later that day.
On January 13, the ministry's attorneys wrote to the Pharmacy Board to demand it issue certificates to all pharmacists who had paid their fees.
The deadline was originally January 15.
But because that day was a Sunday, pharmacists had until Monday (January 16) to pay their fees.