As community pharmacists, under the aegis of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), look forward to their 35th Annual National Conference, tagged “Coal City 2016” , which starts on 29 May to 3 June, 2016 in Enugu, Enugu State, National Chairman of the association, Pharm. (Dr) Albert Kelong Alkali has assured members of a well-planned and better improved conference. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews at his office in Lagos, the Fellow of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP) also revealed some of the challenges of his administration, as he prepares to lead community pharmacists across the country to his first national conference as chairman of the association. Excerpts:
You have been the national chairman of ACPN for close to a year now, how challenging has it been so far?
The first major challenge that we faced as soon as we were elected was the issue of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDGs). As you are aware, the federal government is trying to structure the drug distribution system in the country and as soon as the document came up, there were so many issues associated with it; however we are able to go round them through consultations with stakeholders and we were able to have meetings and dialogues, so we are hoping that based on the programmes rolled out by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), the implementation of the NDDGs will soon start in earnest, possibly by next year.
Aside from that, another serious challenge is the issue of our practice environment – although I am aware that the PCN is trying to review our laws in order to make them effective, so as to at least ensure that we have a conducive environment to practise. On our part, we are looking at how we can partner with the PCN to ensure that we have a very conducive environment to practise.
What are the changes community pharmacists in the country should expect at the 2016 Annual National Conference?
Just as we have been doing in the past, every conference comes with a difference and, coincidentally, the next conference will be my first conference as national chairman of ACPN. So we promise that there will be innovations, new ideas and better improvements on the past conferences as we have laboured day and night to ensure that we organise a conference that our members will keep talking about for a long time.
Community pharmacists in the country should expect a well-organised conference and a better setting for the exhibitors. They should expect welfarism at its peak. They should expect better contents and thought-provoking discussions. Topics that will be discussed at the conference were carefully chosen to meet the need of today’s pharmacy practice.
Additionally, they should expect some fun as we are going to take them around the nooks and crannies of the beautiful City of Enugu. We want them to come and relax and enjoy themselves, at least, for a period of one week, after their labour for one year. Also, there will be a novelty match with the Nigeriau Union of Journalist (NUJ), Enugu State Chapter. There will also be a ‘Walk Against Cervical Cancer’ programme, which will be led by the first lady of Enugu State, Mrs Monica Ugwuanyi. So, categorically this conference will turn out to be the best they have ever attended, as their life will no longer remain the same after the conference (Laughs).
What are the grey areas of community pharmacy practice in Nigeria that you would like stakeholders to address at the conference?
Based on our theme which was derived from the FIP congress, “Manpower Development in Community Pharmacy Practice: Adopting Global Best Practices”, we are looking at enhancing the competence of our members so as to be able to deliver qualitative services to our communities. Community pharmacists are closer to the community than any other health care provider; so if our knowledge and competence base is expanded, we will be able to impact more on the community we serve.
So we are looking at enriching our members with information that is based on clinical practice, pharmaceutical services, manpower development and how to manage their human resource so as to be able to give impactful services to the community we serve.
Aside from the theme, the speakers for each session have been carefully selected to make the sessions as practicable, interesting, inspiring and interactive as possible.
Tell us about some of the notable personalities thay should be expected at the conference
We are assuring our colleagues that the conference will be attended by the “who is who” in the pharmacy profession as well as personalities from other walks of life, including the executive governor of the state, His Excellency , Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his wife, Her excellency, Mrs Monica Ugwuanyi, who will also be presented an award during the conference.
We are also expecting the Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole, as well as other bigwigs in the society, captains of industry, all Fellows of the PSN, all past presidents of the PSN, led by our brand new president, Pharm Hammed Yakasai, as well as all former and present chairmen of ACPN nationwide, and all community pharmacists in the country.
What prompted the choice of Enugu City as the venue for this 2016 Conference?
Our conference is usually open to all states of the federation and we usually encourage any state to come forward and indicate interest. Based on general evaluation, consideration and level of participation in the past, we discovered that Enugu State would be a capable host. So, hosting is usually open to all and it’s like a competition among interested states as there would be screening and other criteria that will be considered before a state is considered a capable host.
It appears northern states have not been active when it comes to bidding to host the national conference, why is this so?
As a matter of fact, the last time a northern state hosted the conference was in 2010 and since then they have not been very active, even though we usually look forward to better participation from them. Presently, ACPN, Kano State, is gradually waking from their slumber and same thing goes to Sokoto and Kaduna, so we are hopeful.
However, we have discovered that security challenges in the North, coupled with some other challenges have been the major factor preventing the northern states from participating actively in our national conferences. But we are happy that since the coming of the new federal government, things have changed, and we are hopeful that things will change better than this.
Also, I want to say that about two northern states have indicated interest in hosting the national conference after the Enugu conference. Already, Plateau State has bidded for 2018, so they are all coming on board.
What is NEC doing to mobilise and community pharmacists across the country about the conference?
We have contacted all past and present state chairmen and invited them to a meeting, which is unprecedented in the history of the association. Also, the national publicity secretary has started sending text messages, informing members on the need to register and mobilise other colleagues for the conference. We are also reaching out heavily to all the states that surround Enugu State. I mean states like Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Benue and others, to mobilise their members and come down for the conference.
We are actually interested in ensuring that our members attend the conference because a lot of pharmaceutical companies are interested in meeting them for partnership so as to ensure good service delivery in the practice. So we are using the publicity office of the association and we are using the media. Our fliers and calenders for the conference have also gone to all the states and we are using the stakeholders in the profession to help mobilise people for the conference.
You mentioned some fun activities planned for pharmacists at the conference, what other interesting side-attractions in the city can participants look forward to during the conference?
They have a museum in Enugu and we are going to visit the place. They also have a waterfall and we will be going there for picnic as well. There will also be a general tour around the beautiful city of Enugu as well as the mining site. So it’s going to be a well packed, fun-filled and worthwhile conference.
Also, we are planning to make them feel at home throughout the conference period by providing social activities that would make them to relax and interact in a serene environment. Also, this year’s exhibition stands would be indoors, so as to ensure that our partners get value for their money and they are happy.
What message do you have for your members across the country as the national conference approaches?
My message to all my colleagues nationwide is that we should endeavour to participate and register for this year’s national conference because that is the only way we can speak with one voice, fellowship together and join hands to be able to improve our practice. It will also afford us opportunity to share experiences with one another and look at our common challenges together with a view to find lasting solutions to them. So I encourage you all to give the association this one week and you will never regret it.