The world commemorated the World Health Worker Week from 1st to 7th April. The week is meant celebrate the amazing work done by health workers and raise awareness on the challenges they face. “Most importantly, it is to provide an opportunity to fill in the gaps in the health workforce by calling those in power to ensure that health workers have the training, supplies and support they need to do their jobs effectively”, Frontline Health Workers Coalition.
Public discourse on human resource in the health sector rarely talk about pharmacists yet they play a critical role in the delivery of healthcare, and are the most accessible healthcare professionals.
Currently Uganda has three universities that offer a bachelor's degree of pharmacy These include: Makerere University, Mbarara University of Science and Technology and Kampala International University.
According to the Annual Pharmaceutical Sector Performance Report 2017-2018, 189 students enrolled in these pharmacy school and 101 graduated,this signifies 53% completion.
Records from the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda show a total of 1010 licensed pharmacists practicing in public and private sector (2017/2018), this gives a ratio of 2.6 pharmacists to 100,000 in the population. The percentage of pharmacists public positions filled is 56%.
Analysis of statistics above, points out to acute shortage of pharmaceutical human resource in Uganda's healthcare system.
There’s need to train more pharmacists not just to address the shortage but also to meet the emerging changes in the landscape of pharmacy practice globally that is becoming clinically oriented,integrated with technology, and offering service such as vaccination. Pharmacy education needs to be adopted to meet these changes as pharmacists are being made more socially accountable for their role in healthcare.
One way this could be done is changing the curriculum to be more inclusive of more clinical time , industry, pharmacy technology It would develop a competent professionally educated workforce for example pharmacists practitioners, pharmaceutical students, pre-service students and pharmacy support workforce. Policy makers should make Healthcare more inclusive of pharmacists and continue to make them accountable for their role in healthcare delivery. The government should work on increasing the number of pharmacy schools, more in regions such as North and East. Globally, pharmacy education is moving away from Bachelor of Pharmacy towards Doctorate of Pharmacy which is more clinically oriented. Pharmacy schools in Uganda should be consider the same. As rightly stated in National Pharmaceutical Sector Strategic Plan 2015-2020, there is need to train pharmacists in specialties such as clinical pharmacy, radio-pharmaceuticals etc.
Research has shown better patient outcomes of drug therapy when pharmacists are involved in their management. There is reduced adverse drug reactions and drug interactions, proper doses administered, more patient follow up, and patients better educated about their medicines.
More pharmacists in the population shall increase access to medicines, optimize use, and save money from misuse of medicines.