Pharm. Abiodun Ajibade is the managing director, Alvid Pharmacy Limited, and chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Oyo State Branch. A Fellow of the PSN, Ajibade has served the PSN, Oyo State as the assistant secretary, publicity secretary, general secretary as well as being chairman since 2017. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the 1994/95 pharmacy graduate of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, speaks on sundry issues relating to pharmacy practice in Oyo State. Excerpts:
Tell us about your Pharmacy. What was the philosophy behind the enterprise?
Alvid Pharmacy Limited is an organisation born out of the need to provide primary healthcare services in the communities we are found. The philosophy of meeting the needs of the populace professionally by presenting the benefits of pharmaceutical care services was the driving force.
Our ambience and mode of operations depict a close relationship with our patients and offers the opportunity for many to choose our services when they have health needs. The pharmacy commenced its operation fully in 2014. We have three branches presently and we are still expanding.
Where do you hope to take this business to in five years?
As a pharmacist battling survival in the midst of chaotic drug distribution in Nigeria, it is challenging to optimise on our potentials but with focus we are seeing the benefits on the horizon. In the next five years, I see our brands in many localities within and outside the state, with the singular focus of a well-run primary healthcare centre as pharmacies in the communities.
As a community pharmacist of repute and as the number one pharmacist in Oyo State, how would you assess pharmacy practice in the state?
Honestly, when I first came to Oyo State in 1997, I was not encouraged with what I met on the ground as a community pharmacist. I saw many big houses that were the premises of our elderly colleagues but no longer thriving as pharmacies. The open drug market in the state was flourishing while pharmacists were basically struggling.
The whole environment was not encouraging as price war was also very rife, with non-pharmacists running premises. They were basically trading without useful pharmaceutical care services and dealing heavy blows on our colleagues who had become peasants.
Most pharmaceutical companies were also not helpful as they were giving incentives based on volume purchase to some of the traders who in turn sold mostly below the recommended trade prices of the products. That was how many pharmacists lost out because they could not carry heavy volume. This was the reason I did not venture into community pharmacy practice immediately after leaving my job at May and Baker.
To cut the story short, community pharmacy in Oyo State is now more encouraging, though more challenging, having to put in so much for the needed differentiation. In the last three years, I have been specifically happy for the new buildings and facilities built by colleagues in advancing their practices in different areas. The recognition and visibility of pharmacists in the state has also helped the populace to make useful choices for pharmacists-own community pharmacies.
However, the activities of “register and go” pharmacists is also a challenge that we must tackle because of their illegal activities in opening up premises that are not effectively manned, thereby endangering the lives of the populace.
It can be tough combining community pharmacy practice with active involvement in general pharmacy activities, especially being the number one pharmacist in the state. How have you been coping?
Being an office holder in PSN or any of its technical groups is a big sacrifice and most frustrating when colleagues are not appreciative of this. As the number one pharmacist in the state, I had to make up my mind to see my tenure as my personal and family’s contributions to the development of PSN in Oyo State.
I took certain decisions that affected my business and still put me in a disadvantaged position competing and surviving with other colleagues. I had to step down one of my premises at a time when I saw that it could become a failure if I should venture into opening the premises.
Fortunately, though, I had been a part of the executive committee for couple of years and that had exposed me to the requirement of the office and learning from our past leaders. I want to thank my wife and pharmacists that have worked and are working with me and the staff who remained despite various challenges.
Of course, I work at a much higher energy-level, multitasking and ensuring I meet up the daily demand of all my engagements in private business and running the affairs of the association. In addition, as a pastor, I also have to be responsible for my assignment in the house of God. Diligence and commitment, with prayers, have been the tonic for the activities so far.
You must have set some goals for yourself at the inception of this administration. How many of these goals have you achieved so far and what are the notable challenges facing your administration?
Yes, on the assumption of office as the PSN chairman, I realised the very low recognition for pharmacists in the society and within the government circle. Also, I saw that our colleagues needed a voice to be able to take what belongs to us. I found the need for improvement, especially in areas we were not trained in school, to be more competitive in our daily engagement. In view of these, I aligned the executive to address these challenges through programmes and activities.
We also have various public enlightenment programmes on several media platforms of radio, television and social media. We hosted “Pharmacists and You” on a radio station, to improve awareness for pharmacists and campaign against drug abuse. We engaged in various outreach programmes, especially educating the members of the National Road Transport Workers (NURTW) on the menace of misuse and abuse of drugs. We organised pharmacy weeks, specifically to discuss areas of improvement for the practice and contribution to the development of the state.
Over the years we have had active collaboration with various government agencies, ministries and departments and these efforts have been paying off, as we are no longer strangers to many of them. We get things done easily among the government officials.
On assumption of duty as chairman, I inherited a parcel of land from my immediate predecessor in whose administration I was the general secretary. The land was to be used as the permanent site for the PSN Oyo State. Although I was privy to all the purchase procedures, it was challenging getting the property fully registered because of the bureaucracy. We spent almost three years getting this sorted.
To the glory of God, in January this year, all documentation were completed and now construction work has fully commenced. As at today, the building is being taken to the first floor, once the decking slab is put in place; and very soon the property will be commissioned for the use of the society.
One major challenge I have seen in all our activities is that our members are always not available even at our own programmes. This is one thing that pharmacists would need to improve upon as we must give out time to salvage whatever we want the profession to become for us. You get discouraged that after toiling and killing yourself to improve on the affairs of the society without being on salary, and you don’t see your colleagues around. In fact, sometimes, when many visitors and guests are already seated, we will be waiting for the pharmacists themselves who are the host.
The health sector for years has had to contend with many problems, with medical workers going on strike incessantly to protest at various times, are there measures that can be taken to solve health sector problems without strike actions by health practitioners?
To be candid, our leadership in Nigeria has not been fair to the health sector. When you compare the level of healthcare delivery in Nigeria with other climes, you will appreciate that as a nation, we are lying to ourselves. Every year, healthcare practitioners seek greener pastures outside the country and become celebrities in foreign lands while their colleagues are wasting away here.
The annual budget for healthcare is too meagre, which is why there has been incessant cry for government attention. Although many of the strikes have been based on remuneration, there is need to improve on the facilities, open up areas for advance research and development, and encourage every healthcare practitioner to attain the zenith in the areas of professional calling. Government must obviously show commitment to improving the healthcare sector – the weakness of which is what we are facing during this COVID-19 pandemic.
To effectively stop incessant strikes in the healthcare industry, there must be a roadmap for advancement in our health sector that takes cognisance of the public and private practitioners meeting specific goals. The healthcare being a social service, must cater for all the players so that everyone is able to contribute his or her quota sufficiently in the sector.
The private sector should be strengthened and regulated so that the pressure on the government facilities will be reduced, thereby making healthcare services more accessible at the grassroots.
There must be a new approach to remuneration of the practitioners and this must be agreed to by all the players in the industry. There must be regular updates and amendments from time to time to reflect realities on the ground. This way, there would be confidence on the part of the practitioners regarding government’s sincerity over their plight.