Pharmacists Challenge Council On More Spaces For Interns, Other Issues

Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria (AHAPN) has challenged the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) on the provision of more spaces for fresh pharmacy graduates due for internship.

The association said it is no longer news that pharmacy graduates roam the streets in search of nonexistent spaces for their mandatory one year internship, which has assumed a worrisome dimension. The body made this known when it paid a courtesy visit on PCN Registrar, Elijah A.  Mohammed, in Abuja.

While presenting him an award for the innovations introduced in steering the ship of the council forward, which included the introduction of online registration and renewal of annual licenses by pharmacists, which has removed the bottlenecks surrounding manual registration, he was also commended for the introduction of Online Mandatory Continuing Professional Development (MCPD).

According to AHAPN National Chairman, Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Amibor, innovations introduced by the registrar have improved the efficiency of the learning process, and saved valuable time and resources for pharmacists, who had to travel long distances to participate in the programme in different states and zones of the country with the attendant risks.

The Registrar was equally commended for strengthening pharmaceutical inspectorate activities nationwide, which have resulted in the closure of many illegal and unregistered premises, which before now, had served as reservoir for unwholesome and adulterated medicines.

They association also commended the robust relationship that exists between the PCN and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). The association equally commended efforts being made at reviewing the obsolete pharmacy laws.

While commending the PCN for authoring the document for central placement of interns, it observed that the process has not commenced yet, resulting in untold hardship for graduates and parents, who are compelled to keep catering for their children and wards years after leaving school.

Dr. Amibor said: “We believe the PCN is in a position to enforce legislation that will compel industries and employers of labour in the country to absorb more interns in their various establishments for their training programme. The Council should also bring pressure to bear on the management of tertiary and other health institutions to increase the number of internship slots for pharmacy and other interns from other disciplines.

“The Council is also encouraged to increase the number of community pharmacies accredited to train pharmacy interns in their various community outlets. And of course, universities, research institutes and pharmaceutical industries should be allocated a minimum number of slots for internship placement.”

The association urged the Council to be decisive on matters of accreditation of health care institutions intending to establish pharmacy departments in their hospitals.

“What we are simply saying is that the PCN should put its feet down and insist on following specifications when it comes to inspection or accreditation of health care institutions, since pharmacy practice would be better off for it. Similarly, we are aware that most private hospitals in Nigeria do not have pharmacists in their employment. I had the privilege of visiting one of such big private hospital, and asked for the pharmacist on duty, only to be told that the pharmacist does not work during the weekends. So, who covers the pharmacy at such times?” Dr. Amibor asked.

The association also lamented the acute shortage of pharmacists in government hospitals and healthcare institutions in Nigeria.  ”It is a common knowledge that there is paucity of pharmacists covering the various health institutions in Nigeria, including those at federal, state and private levels. This trend can no longer be allowed to continue. It also falls short of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended standard of 1 pharmacist per 2000 population. The matter is worse with government hospitals. We urge the PCN to champion advocacy for employment of more pharmacists in government hospitals in Nigeria, in collaboration with PSN and AHAPN.”

The Association touched on the mismanagement of Drug Revolving Fund scheme in various hospitals nationwide.

Amibor said: “We wish to bring to your notice the impunity going on with the management of drug revolving funds by government hospitals across the country. Some chief medical directors are resorting to buying pharmaceutical consumables from the open drug market; some others are encouraging store attendants to bye-pass pharmacists and issue medicines directly to end users. This practice is definitely not acceptable to us and must be discouraged.

“Several resolutions were taken at the recently concluded 20th Annual National Scientific Conference of AHAPN in Port Harcourt, which had as its theme: ‘Functional Drug Revolving Funds for Sustainable Medicines Availability and National Security.”

Another area of concern to the association was the exclusion of pharmacy students from clinical rotation in government hospitals. “Patient care globally is a collaborative practice; hence no group or individual should lay claim to ownership of patients, especially in government hospitals. We urge the PCN to immediately enter into discussion with relevant authorities to remove all hindrances and bottlenecks against pharmacy students from acquiring hands-on experience in their various places of learning,” Dr. Amibor said.

The association further sought the Council’s assistance in its resolve to adopt and implement pharmaceutical care as a philosophy of practice in Nigeria.

Other areas included government sponsorship of pharmacists for the doctor of pharmacy conversion programme; appropriate placement of holders of doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree in the scheme of service for pharmacists, in line with international best practice; release of Consultancy Circular for fellows of the West African Post Graduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP), which is long overdue, and removal of all forms of career stagnation involving members in government hospitals.

The association pleaded with the Registrar to encourage his pharmacy staff, who are automatic members of the association, to identify with all the activities embarked upon by the association.

The association also decried the practice of non pharmacists taking over the jobs of qualified ones.  “We are aware that all kinds of people are taking over jobs hitherto reserved for pharmacists as medical representatives in industries. Although this does not affect us directly as hospital and administrative pharmacists, nevertheless, we are pharmacists and we are not at all impressed that charlatans and mediocres are taking over jobs meant for our colleagues. We urge the Council to look into this trend with a view to putting a stop to it.”

The team included Peter Iliya, Deputy Director, Public Relations; Baba Shehu Ahmed, Director Planning, Research and Statistics; Anthony Idoko, Deputy Director Education and Training; Mr. K.I. Munir, Deputy Director, Administration and Mr. O. A. Wefayo, Director Finance and Accounts.

On lack of internship space for fresh pharmacy graduates, the registrar said the PCN was the first to write for central placement of interns, but the process was hijacked. He said the council was deeply worried about the plight of fresh graduates and was weighing the various options before the Council. One of such options is to treat the interns in the same way as corps members (National Youth Service Corp members), they are pulled out of the general salary structure, and placed on monthly allowances.

Other options according to him included opening of more spaces in industries and community pharmacies and encourage universities to return their best graduates for the internship programme. He mentioned that there are over 300 outlets accredited for internship, but they are obviously grossly inadequate. He promised that the number of spaces would definitely increase next year.

On inspection of hospitals, he said inspectorate teams are now being headed by professors, promising that AHAPN members will subsequently be included in the teams. He also touched on the need for harmony in the healthcare sector, promising that he would be meeting with the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in this regard.

He mentioned that all the 46 legal cases pending before the Council at the instance of NAPPMED had been dispensed with, and the Council was now free from legal encumbrances. He added that patent medicine vendors are already being regulated by the council.

Mohammed promised that the Council will support the adoption of pharmaceutical care as a philosophy of Pharmacy practice, pledging that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will be recruited to assist.

For pharmacists employed in the pharmaceutical firms, the Registrar said there is a new law awaiting presidential consent that will mandate all such firms to register with the PCN. According to him, it will make for ethical products to be handled strictly by pharmacists. The new law will also address codeine abuse.

The Registrar promised that  Drug Revolving Fund (DRF) will be addressed more seriously next year. He regretted how pharmacy students are being denied access to patients bedside by hospital management, despite international best practice, promising that the Council will look into it with a view to working out an amicable solution together with other stakeholders.

Mohammed commended the association for the Award bestowed on him and promised that the award will spur him to sacrifice more for the profession.

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