Disharmony among health professionals in terms hierarchy, who gets the highest pay including the responsibility of drug prescription and dispensing has been order of day within the health sector in recent times.Â Shortly after his inauguration asÂ National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm Okwor Azubike sheds light on these and other issues.Â He speaks to Chioma Obinna. Excerpts:
Why disharmony among health workers?
We have always talked about harmony in the health sector. This is what will ensure that the key concept is achieved. The key concept is that every member of the medical team is important.
No matter how good a doctor is, he cannot run healthcare alone.Â The doctor needs other members of the medical team. The moment we begin to recognise this, only then can we bring back harmony into the system and begin to serve the public better. We must recognise that it is only if we work collectively thatÂ each member of the medical team will function better.
Standard of pharmacy practice
We want to say that the standard we have right now is not what we can be proud of. That is why we are charging ourselves to do more to ensure complete rehabilitation of pharmacy.
We must educate the publicÂ that drugs are not just common commodity. Drugs are poison and that if care is not taken the drug that is meant to cure you might as well kill you. We should be able to educate the public on the risks involved in using drugs.
Problem with drug prescription
There are confusions currently in the country. The doctors prescribed and the same time dispense. If you are not careful, if a pharmacist waits for prescription in his office for three to four months, he is almost forced to do some level of retiring. So we are praying that the separation of those two functions was for the benefit of the patient but here the doctors are buying the drugs and the doctors are writing the drugs and also dispensing the drugs to patients. Doctors should be concerned with diagnosis, and finding out the best medicine and then refer the patient with the prescription to a pharmacist who does the other things to ensure that the patient is getting the appropriate drugs at the right time and at the price.
Implications of improper prescription
The prescription of drugs in the country is chaotic. Drugs are stored like ordinary products. It is so sad that if you pick up the label of every drug item, you will be surprised to see the storage condition.
That is not being done in Nigeria. And that is why we have been putting pressure. People are given drugs that failed not because they areÂ fake, but because the drugs have not been properly stored.
The enabling environment is not there and that is why today we have more than 4000 pharmacists in the diaspora, they are outside the shores of this country. They have left the shores for greener pasture because they are not comfortable with what we have here.
There isÂ crises in electricity, in the energy sector andÂ inÂ the leadership. We have many crises that are not making it conducive for anybody to stay here and work. So we are saying that government should develop that collective will to ensure that we have conducive environment for practitioners not just pharmacists to function effectively. We are talking about services. We are talking about nurses over there. Why is it that when nurses do these jobs outsideÂ this country, they are recognised and paid appropriately? . Why is that doctors and pharmacists over there earn wagesÂ commensurable with what they do? . We needÂ to create the right harmony in the health sector.
Pharmacists are stakeholders for drug use. We are going to concern ourselves primarily with issues that have to do with good pharmacy practice and there are so many goods that we want to bring into pharmacy practice, such as good storage, good usage, rational drug use, good manufacturing practices and so many others.
Our focus is on good pharmacy practice. We all know where we are with counterfeiting and fake drugs. We are working with stakeholders to ensure thatÂ the fundamental things are done to reduce incidence of fake and counterfeit drugs.
We are preparing pharmacists for the future. Pharmacy is a dynamic profession. We need to educate Nigerian pharmacists.
The PSN has given us a mandate to ensure the skills and knowledge of pharmacists are brought to bear with the challenges of pharmacy practice in the third world and Nigeria in particular.
Investiture of Fellows
It will enable the public recognise pharmacists as professionals working ethically in the interest of the patient.
It is also a public announcement about the change of leadership and that people should look for the pharmacist to meet theirÂ drug needs. This is the vocation of a pharmacist all over the world and Nigeria inclusive.
We tend to tackle these challenges through consultations and interactions, building confidence and telling policy makers the importance of the profession to drug use. When we get them to understand what, we do and what we represent, am sure they will change their minds and begin to see that pharmacy is neededÂ in healthcare delivery all over the world.