According to the register of the State Medicines Agency, only 12 of the more than 830 pharmacies in the country have 24-hour opening. Moreover, most of them are in Rīga and its surrounding area.
Although Rēzekne is the seventh-largest city in Latvia, it does not currently possess a 24-hour pharmacy. Indeed, in the entire Latgale region, which take up a large part of eastern Latvia, the only 24-hour pharmacy currenty available is in Daugavpils. For someone in Balvi, in the north of Latgale region, that would be a trip of 170 kilometers.
Representatives of pharmacy networks told LTV that fewer and fewer pharmacies are open around the clock. Even in Rīga, there is a lack of demand.
The data available on the website of the State Medicines Agency show that pharmacies in Ventspils, Tukums, Jelgava and Ādaži still have round-the-clock working hours.
"For some time, we had a 24-hour pharmacy in Rīga, but there was not much demand from the population, so we discontinued this service," said Zane Melberga, the quality manager of the Euroaptieka pharmacy network.
Jelena Petrišina, head of retail sales for pharmaceuticals at Mēness aptiekas, also stated in a written answer that there is not enough demand for a 24-hour pharmacy.
"From 24:00 to 06:00 an average of three purchases were made in pharmacies. The structure of purchases by infrequent visitors has also been analyzed. It shows that the selected pharmacy products during the night hours are not related to urgent situations," said Petrišina.
The representatives of both pharmacy networks say that there have been no complaints about working hours recently. It makes no financial sense for the pharmaceutical companies to provide 24-hour coverage, and in any case there is an acute shortage of pharmacists in the regions.
"This service is not provided [the same way] as during the day. Mostly it is at the counter, which is also a safety issue. A pharmacist is a highly educated professional and these employees do not always want to work night hours," explained Kristīne Jučkoviča, executive director of the Latvian Pharmaceutical Care Association.
The cost of operating 24-hour pharmacies has also become more expensive with rising energy bills and other overheads. However, since pharmacy is a regulated industry, the availability of 24-hour pharmacies could be expanded if state and municipal subsidies used.
"The company has confirmed to municipalities that they are ready to consider proposals for municipal support for the operation of a 24-hour pharmacy, if they, despite the lack of demand for the service, consider it necessary to ensure the operation of 24-hour pharmacies in the interests of the population," Petrišina assured.
Jučkoviča pointed out that there is no regulation on special places where 24-hour pharmacies must be available. "The state has the opportunity to create various separate conditions, and then probably this ball is also on the side of the state in this case," she added.
However, for the time being, in places where there is no 24-hour pharmacy, specialists call on residents to be as prepared as possible for unforeseen situations and to regularly check and replenish the contents of home medicine cabinets and first-aid kits.
Pharmacists also emphasize that they regularly study and analyze customer flows; if the demand in a particular place increases, it is possible to extend working hours until 21:00.