It is my pleasure and honour to lead this delegation of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) to your office on this auspicious day. On behalf of my colleagues, members of the PSN I wish to commend you for the good leadership you showed as a member of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. COVID-19 presented us realities that are like war times and like a General, you were able to stir the country to victory.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is no stranger to you and to this office, we have been here on several occasions, visiting sitting Ministers, including yourself. However, this is our first official visit to you as the Honourable Minister of Health. It is our hope that this visit will avail us the opportunity to interact with you and present issues that needs the attention of the Honourable Minister.
By way of introduction, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is the umbrella body of registered Pharmacists in Nigeria with a vision to be recognized as an association whose members are accessible healthcare professionals responsible for the provision and rational use of safe, effective and affordable medicines, pharmaceutical care and the promotion of public health and quality of life. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria was founded in 1927 and registered under session 21 of the 1922 Companies Act.
- INCREASED EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The COVID-19 amongst other things exposed the inadequacies of our healthcare delivery system including the number of health professionals in the country. As recommended by the World Health Organization, there should be one pharmacist to 2000 persons of the total population. In Nigeria, as professionals, we are faced with about 50,000 people to one pharmacist. This is obviously overwhelming. We will, therefore, urge the Honourable Minister to look into this matter so as to achieve increased employment for Pharmacists and other healthcare workers so as to improve their services.
- CENTRAL POSTING OF PHARMACY GRADUATES: As one of the possible causes to the inadequate number of professional pharmacists in the country is the issue of central posting for new pharmacy graduates. Many young pharmacy graduates are roaming around in search of non-existing internship spaces despite the federal government’s approval of internship centres. Many are the plights of these young graduates who travel across the length and breadth of this country, constantly putting their lives at risk, looking for a place to be qualified to offer service to their fatherland. It is important to note that the internship program is a critical step in the training to becoming a full-fledged registered pharmacist. This is a matter of urgent necessity to close this gap in the process of their training.
- RECONSTITUTION OF BOARDS: The Pharmacist is essentially the healthcare professional that acts as the custodian of medicines and provides the safety buffer between medicines and patients. Given the simplistic definition, the pharmacist is the professional that understands the workings of drugs hence have the expertise to prepare, advice and dispense drugs. We want to request the inclusion of at least a Pharmacist in the board of every teaching hospital and federal medical centre and any other institution where drugs are handled. This will avail the Board/institution the knowledge of the one expert that has been trained in the management of drugs. This request has been on for a while and has become a soured taste in our mouth as there is an evident lopsidedness of appointments into the Boards of teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres. The nation needs the expert in areas where specialized knowledge is needed and only a Pharmacist has been trained to manage medicines. It is our prayer that we put square pegs in square holes.
- IMPLEMENTATION OF PHARMACIST CONSULTANCY CADRE: Let me appreciate the government for the circular that was released with respect to the Pharmacist Consultant Cadre in the Federal Civil/Public Service. We are aware that this same circular was released in 2011 and we received it with this same level of excitement. However, the implementation never saw the light of day. Hence, we are appealing that the Honourable Minister puts his weight behind this to ensure that this is implemented in the Ministry and other Health Institutions.
- INTERPROFESSIONAL HARMONY: We call on the interest and interference of the Honourable Minister to the interprofessional relationship between healthcare workers. There was a very visible unhealthy rivalry between members of the healthcare team, and this caused unwanted disruptions in the healthcare delivery system but the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the PSN signed an MOU to see to the actualization of a healthcare team with one mind. And we are also working with the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) to see that we work together as members of the same team so as to have a healthcare team that has the patient whom we have all sworn to care and cater for better of.
- CENTRAL BANK HEALTHCARE INTERVENTION FUND: The COVID-19 came with its many issues including a total lockdown of the economy. However, this came as a blessing to the healthcare industry especially pharmaceutical manufacturers who through the Central Bank Healthcare Intervention were able to scale up to meet the growing demand. Also, the increased funding received by research institute especially the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development. We want to encourage the government not to relent in its effort as there is always room to do more.
- DRUG PRESCRIPTION POLICY: There is an urgent need for the Drug Prescription Policy to be well established to allow decency and ethical conduct in the healthcare system. There is need for doctors to adhere strictly to diagnosis and prescription while pharmacists carry out their dispensing and drug counselling roles. There is a need for every member of the healthcare team to remain in their professional space for sanity to prevail.
- PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY DEBT BURDEN: Honourable Minister Sir, we want to call for your intervention as a matter of urgency the huge receivable burden the pharmaceutical industry is under. We did an estimate of the debt owed to the pharmaceutical industry by federal and state institutions, with some debts lasting for 2 – 3 years. As of 31st March 2020, we have N3,062,832,507.31 as debt owed by various institutions from the data received from 30 pharmaceutical companies. This huge debt burden is preventing companies from increasing their capacity.
- NATIONAL DRUG DISTRIBUTION GUIDELINE: The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria will have to commend the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health in initiation a Drug Distribution Guideline for the country. Through the recommendation of the PSN, regulatory agencies and stakeholders, the Federal Ministry of Health approved a drug distribution flow chart for the country.
The PSN, PCN, NAFDAC and FMOH have worked maximally on this project and we strongly urge the Honourable Minister to ensure that the deadline for its implementation is strictly adhered to
Our dear Honourable Minister, in view of the foregoing, we implore you to use your good office to positively influence the issues touched in this address namely:
- Increased employment opportunities for Pharmacists.
- Central posting/placement of Pharmacy graduates.
- Reconstitution of Boards of Federal Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres.
- Implementation of Pharmacy Consultancy Cadre.
- Positive interference in interprofessional harmony in the healthcare sector.
- Establishment of the Drug Prescription Policy.
- Facilitate the payment of the debts owed to the pharmaceutical industry.
- Implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guideline
Thank you for your kind attention and God bless.
Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa, OFR, MON, NPOM, FPSN
President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria