With recent advancements in pharmacy practice globally, the National President of the Christian Pharmacists Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN), Pharm. (Sir) Ike Onyechi, has called for a comprehensive reform of pharmacy practice in Nigeria, in order for practitioners to compete favourably in the global arena. Speaking to Pharmanews in an exclusive interview, the managing director of Alpha Pharmacy and current winner of the Ikeja Golf Club Eid-el-Kabir Kitty tournament, also discusses the activities of CPFN and the need for a more progressive PSN in the nearest future. Excerpts:
Thinking of PSN at 87, can it be said that Pharmacy has positively affected the nation so far?
Yes, I can say that Pharmacy is evolving, growing and getting better by the day. We wouldn’t forget that we started as dispensers of drugs so many years back, and from a diplomate course, Pharmacy has evolved into a professional course, awarding degrees. We now have West African Post graduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP), which is now interfacing the public to meet their needs. Also from about three pharmacy schools during our school days in the 1970s, now we have 19 pharmacy schools. So it’s a great improvement compared to the beginning, because it was only OAU that was offering Pharmacy as a course before UNN, ABU, UNIBEN, UNILAG and other universities joined in.
The quality of learning has also improved along the line, and we are hoping to get better. In practice, Pharmacy has also changed from drug-focused to patient-oriented. There is so much enlightenment on pharmaceutical care, and this has resulted in the creation of counselling space in most pharmacies. However, there is still room for improvement.
The theme of the 87th PSN conference is “Transforming Pharmacy Practice for Better Outcomes”. From your experience and interactions, which areas of the profession need to be changed?
The needed change should be total and holistic. While I admitted in your previous question that we are getting better, it’s on a relative term. During FIP conferences, we normally observe the level of discussions from participants from Australia, UK, France, USA, and others, and we have discovered that the level of their contributions is usually far from where we are. So we need to retool and change the process before we can think of better outcomes.
For better outcomes, the tools will change, and the curriculum needs to change. The way and manner in which lecturers teach students, as well as the quality of facilities used, need massive upgrading for better outcomes. We need to change from the admission policy, to teaching and facilities.
We need also to look into manufacturing areas for change options, remunerations to pharmacists at all levels of their work, need to be improved. Whether you are lecturing, community-based or hospital-based, the entry points into pharmacy have increased, so should the reward be increased. The community pharmacists will have to upgrade from small shops to bigger pharmacies, with available areas for counselling. Also, the aesthetics of pharmacies need to be upgraded in order to compete with global standard. Pharmacies should devote enough space for wellness products, for instance, Alpha Pharmacy in Enugu has specially created a section for wellness equipment like Bicycles, Tennis Boards, Golf Kits, Lawn Tennis rackets and Boards, thread mills, and so on.
CPFN was in Uyo last month for its conference, in preparation for the 87th PSN conference. Were there divine instructions received for the leadership of the profession?
Yes, though not a direct “thus says the Lord”, we had a very good outing and a fulfilled session. We had a lot of interactions on the theme, “Fulfilling Your Purpose”. Pharmacists were reminded of their purpose as co-workers with God to preserve the health integrity of men. Also as labourers in the vineyard of God, we were admonished to take our work more seriously, with more humility, dedication and commitment, with the goal of improving the quality of life of the average man. Pharmacists also need to find ways of serving God within the profession, by demonstrating more compassion towards patients and giving free drugs to the less-privileged.
As the national president of CPFN, what are your plans to check the unethical attitudes of some Christian pharmacists who keep three jobs at a time, as well as defraud companies?
You can only say that many of them are Christians; but in the real sense of it, they are unbelievers. This is happening, not because they are pharmacists, but due to the morally depraved society we find ourselves. And this is why CPFN has been praying for an improved and healthy society – a society that will work with less greed, where there is less grabbing, and so on.
There are also many nominal Christians, who could be as high as 80 per cent, in some congregations. Thus the society needs a holistic change from leadership to followership, from top to bottom. If you get to Europe, many of them are not Christians, but have high moral standard. This calls for intercessory activity on the part of all Christians, and that is part of our obligations at CPFN.
As the Christian umbrella of PSN, what roles has CPFN played in the faceoff between medical doctors and other health workers in the country?
CPFN, in each of our outings, has always prayed for peace. According to the Holy Writs in Hebrew 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men and holiness, without which no one shall see God.” To pursue means to make efforts to be at peace with all men. This is the guiding principle of Christian pharmacists, to be at peace with all men, doctors or non-doctors. We are not regulators. Government representatives are already wading into the issue, but our God can do more.
What is CPFN’s vision for PSN in the next five years?
In the next five years, we would like the PSN to have resolved all its internal acrimonies. We want to see a more mature PSN that will have this guiding principle of finding peace with all and sundry, with a more peaceful coexistence within its ranks and files, with other associations and health workers.