Pharmacist shortage in public health a concern: Haufiku

11 Aug 2016 14:10pm
WINDHOEK, 11 AUG (NAMPA) - State medical institutions face a critical shortage of pharmacists, as hospitals in areas such as the Kunene and Kavango regions have no pharmacists at all.
At Engela State Hospital in the Ohangwena Region, the sole pharmacist there is expected to serve approximately 20 000 people.
While Namibia is said to have more than 500 pharmacists, the bulk of them operate in the private sector.
Minister of Health and Social Services, Bernard Haufiku has as a result called for recommendations to amend to the soon to be introduced Public Health Act to compel pharmacists to prioritise the public health sector for at least three years before venturing into the private sector.
Haufiku added that this will also compel graduates, including those being trained under the Ministry of Health, at institutions such as the Namibia Health Training Centre and the University of Namibia's School of Medicine to be roped in to assist as well.
The shortage is so severe that in 2015, the ministry spent close to N.dollars 3.2 million to expatriate foreign medical personnel, particularly Cubans, to fill the gaps in various medical fields.
Earlier this year, the health ministry also set aside N.dollars 283 million to send about 500 local students to foreign universities on training programmes in South Africa, Zambia, India, Tanzania and Cuba amongst others.
Most students started with their training in August this year, while some will start in September and in January 2017, according to the ministry’s spokesperson, Ester Paulus.
Students have been encouraged to specialise in the fields of pharmaceuticals, physiotherapy, radiography, environmental health, clinical science, medicine, dentistry, biomedical technology, clinical technology, medical orthotics, prosthetics and dietetics.
Haufiku made the remarks on the changing legislation in an interview with Nampa shortly after the appointment of new Namibia Medical Regulatory Council (NMRC) members last Tuesday.
He said the services of a pharmacist should be regarded as a right.
“It is unacceptable that 90 per cent of them are in the private sector. Health is not a commercial entity, but a right.
“We will deal with it while we are still in power. They have to work for the State for at least three to five years,” he stressed.
He proposed a joint agreement between the private and public sectors to share ideas and expertise as a solution to addressing the shortage of pharmacists.
The majority of the pharmacists employed in Namibia are graduates from various tertiary institutions across the Southern African region, such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa, according to Haufiku.
Approached for comment, regulatory pharmacist at Erongo Med, Hendrina Gideon said people should be free to work where they want.
“People move for different reasons. I for instance wanted to work in a wholesale environment, which Government does not have,” said Gideon.
Erongo Med distributes pharmaceuticals and medical devices and disposables to hospitals in the Erongo Region.