It is cheery news for pharmacists and allied health workers in public hospitals in Lagos that the state government has created Consultant Pharmacist cadre and directorate for allied health professionals in schemes of service in the state.
By the new policy, pharmacists in the employ of Lagos State health ministry would henceforth look forward to attainment of the highest possible height in their career progression. It is dream come true after many years of advocacy – for a review of scheme of public/civil servants by the Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria (AHAPN).
The AHAPN had explained in its submission to the federal government recently that the call for a review of the scheme was necessitated by the fact that the establishment of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists is to enable pharmacists acquire more skills through specialist courses which they undertake in a four year programme, to qualify as Consultants.
Under the extant scheme according to AHAPN, pharmacists were stagnated at grade level 16 or even 15 because there is only one provision for grade level 17, which is the directorship position with many of them retiring without the attainment of grade level 17.
But doctors under the umbrella body of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State Chapter, already kicking against this, argue that the new policy is not in tandem with international best practice in healthcare delivery, describing it as a possible recipe for anarchy.
We believe that Lagos NMA got it wrong in protesting the new policy because the reasons adduced are prejudiced. In stating that the new policy has the potential to polarise healthcare workers in the state on account of distorting the hierarchical order of healthcare delivery is unacceptable, and simply a display of intolerance for other healthcare professionals.
It must be emphasised that leadership position in health must not be the exclusive preserve of doctors as recent developments in advanced societies have demonstrated. As recently as late April this year, a nurse was appointed Acting Surgeon General in the United States, and it did not attract condemnations from doctors in that country.
Similarly, Economists have been appointed to the positions of health ministers in Britain and Canada, and doctors in those societies did not threaten to down tools in protest against them as would have been the case in Nigeria.
The NMA in Lagos also exhibited insensitivity towards pharmacists when it advised the state government to appoint more pharmacologists instead of implementing the new policy. It is also odious for NMA Lagos branch to allege that JOHESU compares diploma and ‘sandwich’ graduates among its members with consultant medical practitioners. Such statements are capable of stoking brick-bat between the two professional bodies as well as animosities at work places, and unbefitting of a body that prides itself as leader of the healthcare team.
For a country that ranks a dismal 187th out of 190 in the latest World Health Organisation Ranking of Health Systems, topping only Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Myanmar, Nigeria is in dire need of qualitative healthcare delivery to meet international standards.
Residency programmes are not designed for NMA members alone as doctors would want us to believe. After all, the USA based Johns Hopkins hospital is renowned for running residency programmes for pharmacists. Similarly, the West African Post-graduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP) is accredited with offering programmes leading to the award of consultant pharmacist, and that has been going on for years.
NMA must be reminded that over the last 20 years, pharmacists’ role has transformed from product orientation to essential clinician on the healthcare team. Clinical pharmacy which is the future of healthcare delivery mandates that the pharmacist work with physicians, other healthcare professionals as well as patients to ensure that medications prescribed for patients contribute to positive health outcomes.
It is heartening however, that in Nigeria some state governments have embraced these modern policies aimed at strengthening career progression of health workers and enhance quality of healthcare delivery. The recent appointment of a nurse by Kwara State government – as substantive Commissioner for Health is indeed worthy of emulation.