The Minister of Health, Alexandru Rafila, urges Romanians under the age of 40 to go “as quickly as possible” to pick up their iodine tablets.
“The distribution of pills is perfectly functional. I urge everyone, all people up to 40 years of age, to go as soon as possible to the family doctor from whom they need to receive the prescription for potassium iodide pills,” said Rafila on Monday, answering a question from journalists.
He added that there are 2,500 pharmacies across the country that stock these pills, and people can pick them up for free with a prescription. “It’s a perfectly functional system. It is important that people turn to the system that we managed to put in place,” said Rafila.
Questioned if there is demand for the iodine pills, Rafila replied: “There is more demand, less demand, I don’t know to tell you. But now, perhaps as things get tense in Ukraine, demand is likely to increase. But family doctors must issue a prescription to those who need to receive potassium iodide.”
The statement comes as Russian forces bombed the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine again. According to Ukrainian authorities, three radiation sensors were hit in Sunday’s attack.
Potassium iodide pills should only be taken by those under the age of 40, in the event of a nuclear accident, within 24 hours of its occurrence.
However, the Health minister’s statement stirred the family doctors’ discontent. GPs claim people are calling their offices non-stop after the Health Minister’s statement on iodine pills. Raluca Zoițanu, the president of the Federation of Family Physician Associations, said that this situation was created because “the message was very bad”. She told people they would get the prescriptions, “but not right away.”
“Following the statement of the Minister of Health yesterday, which we consider irresponsible and led to panic and hysteria among the population, our activity in the offices was blocked. All the doctors complain that they get dozens, hundreds of phone calls. A colleague said he received 381 SMSes in three hours from patients wanting these prescriptions.
We provided a solution in March, from the first discussions about the distribution of pills, we continued since then to explain that they should be issued from the pharmacy, based on a bulletin, and the pharmacies should check on a website whether the patient has taken pills from another part, a site of this kind can be made in an hour, but the Minister of Health must ask“, the doctor said.
However, Zoitanu says it is not people’s fault in this case. “We cannot blame people, the minister’s message was the one that was very bad. When the minister says: urgently go and get the prescription, it is normal for people to behave like this. Our message is that we are going to give prescriptions as soon as we are able to, but not right away. If a patient calls today, he’ll probably have an appointment tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in a few days”, she concluded.
Asked today if he got panicked due to Health minister’s announcement for the population on taking the iodine pills asap, Alexandru Rafila’s party chief, PSD chair Marcel Ciolacu said he had not got panicked, but though suggested that Rafila was a poor communicator.
“I think the announcement was not well presented and argued, but Mr. Rafila came out with a preventive notice. It was not with bad intentions, my opinion is that the communication team at the ministry must be changed, that there is no shame in changing something if it doesn’t work,” PSD chairman Marcel Ciolacu said on Tuesday.