CLICKS, a pharmacy chain, has formed a public-private partnership with the Western Cape government to provide vaccines and family planning services next year, the province said on Wednesday.
The initiative, which is to be formally launched next year, is expected to benefit the provincial government by taking the load off over-stretched government clinics, while Clicks hopes to increase sales to customers who might not otherwise visit its stores.
"Pharmacies are not just about the dispensing of medicine, they are part of the primary healthcare solution. We hope to grow and provide more primary healthcare services," Clicks head of healthcare Dan Zinner said on Wednesday.
Clicks and the Western Cape health department will launch a pilot project next year that will see the retailer providing babies with government-procured vaccines.
Consumers will be able to book an appointment by telephone and will be charged only R75 for a half hour consultation with a nurse. The vaccines will be free.
The shots needed to vaccinate a baby up to 18 months carry a price tag of R3,500 in the private sector, said Mr Zinner.
Clicks will use its distributor UPD to transport the vaccine stock to its stores. Further, the company will provide family planning services, at R50 per consultation.
Free consultations will be provided at specific times.
Western Cape health MEC Theuns Botha said partnering with the private sector was "a practical, sustainable way to expand the reach of public health care and enhance the quality of … care."
"The benefit of this partnership is that it will enable us to channel patients toward Clicks Clinics and shorten the queues at our primary health care facilities, capacitating us to attend to other health needs."
"We do not see the public and private spheres in competition with each other. This approach boosts the revenues of private businesses, thereby creating jobs, raising more taxes and growing the economy," Mr Botha said.
He said the arrangement with Clicks was the forerunner for similar partnerships with other pharmacy groups, including smaller ones. A tender was already open and bids would close on January 15, with services due to start in July.
Clicks is South Africa’s biggest private sector retail pharmacy. It held 16.2% of the market at the end of August, up from 15.4% a year earlier, said Mr Zinner, citing research firm IMS.
Clicks expected to add between 20 and 30 new pharmacies to its chain over the next year.
Mr Zinner said Clicks’ biggest impediment to growth was the national shortage of pharmacists and pharmacy assistants, and it was investigating the feasibility of recruiting staff from other countries.