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Prognosis poor for pharmacist fraternity

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Pharmacy services in Trinidad and Tobago is in a critical situation. The highest administrative office for pharmacy in The Ministry of Health, The Drug Inspectorate, has been completely denuded of staff over the last few years so that it is unable to efficiently carry out its functions. It is now in danger of complete disintegration and leaving the fraternity headless.

Why should this be allowed to happen?

Decentralisation of the staff under the Ministry of Health into the five RHA’s was completed around 2009. Before decentralisation took place, however, pharmacists under the Ministry of Health would be promoted from the field of clinics and hospitals into the Drug Inspectorate at the Ministry as a progression of their career, with the final post being the Principal Pharmacist.

The functions of the Office are expansive and is responsible for issuing all the Pharmacies and drug distributors in Trinidad and Tobago with antibiotic and narcotic licenses, engage in pharmacovigilance, inspection of all public (RHA’s) and private pharmacies and conduct audits to ensure they comply with regulations. The full complement of pharmacists at the Drug Inspectorate performing these functions in 2008 was about ten, but there is literally one person in the office today.

Attrition and lack of successive planning has completely denuded the Drug Inspectorate. But even worse, with no handing over of KSA’s gained in the department it means longer learning curves for whosoever is belatedly recruited to the department.

Why would successive Ministers of Health and permanent secretaries ignore the Drug Inspectorate’s dwindling capacity to carry out its objectives, is anyone’s guess. I consider this a downright disrespect for the profession.

Is the Ministry unaware of the necessity of services provided by the Inspectorate to the pharmacists and pharmacies in the entire country?

Are they ignorant of the importance of pharmacovigilance activity to monitor and protect the health of our citizens?

Is it that there is some will to undermine the ability of the Inspectorate to monitor Pharmacists in the field, where they would ensure that they are complying with the Antibiotics and Narcotic and Controlled Drug Laws, and keep practitioners toeing the line?

What is the prognosis for a fraternity with a non-existent or dismantled administrative department?

Most pharmacists are hardworking, ethical and conservative in their practice, providing quality service. But the reduction of Drug Inspectorate services to its members causes stagnation in the field, apathy, frustration, deviation from norms. It would encourage the proliferation of demi gods and disorder. I wait to see the Ministry of Health’s progress on this issue.



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