Uganda’s pharmacies, hospitals and drug dispensaries are facing tough times with an acute shortage of pharmacists.
Delegates at Monday’s Uganda Pharmaceutical Sector Conference in Kampala heard that there are currently barely 600 qualified pharmacists in the country.
According to the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, one pharmacist serves an average of 100,000 people – way below the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of one for every 2,000. To redress the shortfall, Uganda would need to immediately recruit more than 4,500 pharmacists.
The head of the medicines and health service delivery monitoring unit in State House, Dr Diana Atwine, told the conference that the lack of sufficient capacity was affecting service provision across the country.
“Because of absenteeism of these key health workers, we are seeing that some medicines expire in the stores before they can be utilised, while others are being misused because of unclear prescriptions. This is one of the contributing factors to the emerging drug resistance and even death,” she said.
The problem is further escalated by the gross distribution disparity of pharmacists between rural and urban areas, with most concentrated in urban areas and, more specifically, the private sector.
Key challenges of this shortage include unqualified personnel dispensing drugs, self- medication, under- and misuse of drugs and essential medicines stock out. In developed countries, pharmacies only dispense most drugs on prescription from a doctor. But in Uganda, like other developing countries, almost all drugs can be obtained over the counter without a doctor’s prescription.
The biggest challenge to individual pharmacists, Prof Amon Agaba said, is to maintain close oversight of dispensing functions while carving out adequate time to serve as a patient educator.
Agaba, a senior lecturer at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), said while pharmacists continue to be responsible for ensuring that the right patient gets the right medication at the right time, they now educate patients and care-givers about the optimal use of medication and are leaders in the prevention of medication errors.
Agaba urged government to support research and development in pharmacology in order to scale up supply chain management and boost innovations.
Source : The Observer