(By Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis)
In this interview with Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Pharm. Akinrinola Fasipe, current director of pharmaceutical services in Osun State Hospitals Management Board (OSHMB), bared his mind on some boggling issues in the health sector, including why hospital officials erroneously think pharmacists misappropriate drugs. Excerpts:
Tell us a bit about yourself
After my early education at St Claire’s Primary School, Osogbo, I proceeded to Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo State (1975-1980). On completion, I was fortunate enough to gain admission same year into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka for my degree (1980-1986). I had my internship at Jericho Nursing Home, Ibadan; and later, my National Youth Service programme at the 82 Army Division, Enugu.
Is it right then to say you cut your teeth at Enugu?
(Laughs) Not really. I have always been in hospital pharmacy. I entered the service in 1988 post-NYSC and my first duty station was at Adeoyo Maternity Hospital in Ibadan. Back then, the old Oyo State also included what we now know today as Osun State.
As a DPS in Osun Health Board, how is your state handling the issue of drug procurement & distribution to prevent influx of counterfeit medicines?
First, let me say that the Ministry of Health is in charge of drug procurement on behalf of hospitals management board based on perceived need (our dialogue with them). Unlike in other ministries, the drugs are bought centrally. This is one way government ensures fake drugs don’t find their way into the hospital as suppliers would be held responsible if their drugs are found wanting. No supplier, of course, wants to be blacklisted for supplying fake and sub-standard products. Besides, suppliers are always made to sign an agreement that their consignments will be taken back if they are found wanting.
How is Osun State ensuring that private hospital proprietors keep to laid down principles by offering qualitative service?
In the Nigerian environment, we are always having this problem of quackery trying to infiltrate every business. The same can be said about private hospitals. However, government has set up a department to monitor and check out such activity. It is called the Department of Tertiary and Non-Government Organisations. It is that department that goes out on inspection and monitors the activities of these hospitals. Besides, they are expected to register with the ministry of health to oversee the function of those private hospitals. Any hospital that is not registered or engages in unwholesome or unprofessional activities is shut down by the government.One thing I can say is that the department is indeed up and doing.
As the DPS, how do you handle the accusation that some pharmacists in hospital practice hoard and pilfer drugs in their care?
The allegation is baseless. I did mention earlier that the state government, realising the importance of sound health to the populace and realising that many of our people would not be able to maintain their health because of cost implications, has graciously put in place a free health policy which includes dispensing drugs totally free, irrespective of gender. But as we know, everything that is free is always open to abuse. Just because government said the drugs are free, some people see it as their share of the national cake. But the department has put in place measures and systems to ensure that drugs put in care of pharmacists are not pilfered and stealing reduced to the barest minimum. Also the amount of drugs dispensed to each patient is collated and, at the end of the month, submitted to the relevant authority for scrutiny. And where there are discrepancies, the HMB (Hospitals Management Board) and the ministry of health are expected to take steps to investigate it.
What other challenges are facing hospital pharmacists today?
There is a paradigm shift now from product-focus to patient-focus. In that wise, we are talking of taking on more clinical duties by the pharmacist. This includes going on ward round, monitoring adverse drug effect, public health talk to patients and drug information activities. Then you need to counsel patients on proper use of drugs to get maximum benefit.
Secondly, proper documentation of drugs must be taken into consideration. Let me say the first major challenge we have in hospital practice is lack of adequate personnel to carry out the aforementioned duties. Though the government is trying, we cannot deny that. This is exemplified by the fact that 10 more pharmacists were employed in 2012 to cover up the lapses. Apart from that, there is need for adequate infrastructure for these activities to take place. For instance, there is need for privacy to counsel patient. As at this point, I must also add that government has voted a huge sum of money to renovate our hospitals. But just like Oliver Twist, we believe they can do more.
The government needs to motivate staff through adequate and proper remuneration. For instance, we have lots of staff leaving for greener pasture.
How would you rate government’s effort?
The government is trying as I said. But it can also strive to continue with the renovation works on ground. Equipment is another area to look in. There is also need for training and retraining. For instance, the advanced world is talking about e-dispensing and e-medicine. But we are yet to get there.