Message from the President
Prof Manoranjenni (Mano) Chetty – President
It’s the end of another year and time to reflect on the activities and achievements of the South African Pharmacy Council and general events relating to pharmaceutical services in the country during 2015.
The shortages in supply of specific medicines in the country were probably at their worst in 2015, with public sector healthcare facilities appearing to have experienced these shortages to a greater extent than healthcare facilities in the private sector. While this trend in medicine shortage has been observed globally due to challenges with manufacture and supply, some of the reasons are country-specific. Simple but crucial principles of stock control and ordering are reported to be among the reasons for shortages in public healthcare facilities. The need to emphasise stock control principles and procedures during the training and supervision of pharmacists and pharmacy support staff cannot be underestimated. Council’s future monitoring visits will be more attentive to these aspects of training and supervision.
The issue of adequate pharmacists and pharmacy support staff to provide the country with an effective pharmaceutical service remains an area of high priority. Various options for increasing the number of pharmacists being trained have been considered and deliberations will continue in 2016. The introduction of new cadres of pharmacy support personnel was an area of concern to us, but has now been resolved. Although initial plans were to introduce three new cadres and phase out the current pharmacist’s assistant (basic and post basic), the decision taken this year was to retain the current pharmacist’s assistant and introduce the pharmacy technician. The pharmacy technician will have a university qualification and a skill set that will ensure improved support for the pharmacists, freeing pharmacists to participate in activities that improve pharmaceutical care.
Armed with greater skills and training in comparison with the current cadres of pharmacy support personnel, the pharmacy technician will be better equipped to contribute positively to pharmaceutical services in the proposed new universal health coverage in South Africa. In addition, with the introduction of specialisations in pharmacy, having trained personnel to carry out many of the routine tasks would enable the pharmacists to practise their specialisations more effectively.
The year 2015 saw governments taking an active role in developing strategic plans to reduce the global health threat associated with antibiotic resistance. Our national Minister of Health has formed an advisory committee to steer the activities in this area. As custodians of medicines, pharmacists have an important role in identifying practices that may contribute to antibiotic resistance. Pharmacists are expected to take a leading role in promoting best practices to minimise antibiotic resistance and preserve the currently effective antibiotics. The first World Antibiotic Awareness Week in November provided the opportunity for health professionals and the public to focus on this serious healthcare issue. The SAPC website provides some useful information for pharmacists.
The outbreak of Ebola in Africa placed many countries on high alert for detection of spread of the virus. The contagion called for innovative methods to contain the spread of the infection, devise new treatments for infected patients, and improve the understanding of the disease. There was a sudden realisation that all countries should prepare for such outbreaks of contagious diseases. Pharmacists in the affected countries should play a crucial role in such situations. Relevant resource links will be uploaded to the SAPC website.
Preparations for the next national pharmacy conference, to be held in Durban in October 2016, are proceeding. We hope that more pharmacists will be able to attend and participate in the programme, which we are designing to support active discussions from all sectors of pharmacy. As pharmacists we have a crucial role to play in improving pharmaceutical care in the country. We hope that some of our deliberations at the conference will assist with this process.
During 2015, Council received considerable feedback from the profession regarding activities that have been useful and supportive as well as areas that require improvement. We are grateful for the comments of praise and the constructive criticism, which will enable us to improve our services and perform more effectively. A high priority area for attention in 2016 will be the customer care line. Although various measures have been implemented to improve this service, it appears that further attention is required.
We would like to thank the pharmacy profession for the support during the past year. We also express our gratitude to the team in the Office of the Registrar who work long hours to ensure that the operational functions of the SAPC are achieved.
On behalf of the Council members, I wish you and your family an enjoyable and safe festive period.