The need for observance of ethical practices by healthcare professionals in Nigeria dominated discussions by experts during the 2018 edition of the World Pharmacists Day celebrations that held in Lagos recently.
Various speakers who spoke on the theme, ‘Pharmacists: Your Medicine Experts’, identified unethical practices as one of the reasons the nation’s health sector continues to falter after 58 years of Nigeria’s independence.
President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, who was among the speakers, alerted the nation at the occasion when he said that professionals in health have crossed their legitimate sphere of practice by taking responsibilities that are outside of their core training. He wondered why healthcare professionals without training in prescription of drugs would indulge in such unwholesome act.
We commend the PSN president for speaking out on such a matter that has the potential of raising serious challenges in the healthcare sector with far reaching implications on patient care in the country.
It is pathetic that successive administrations in Nigeria had paid lip service to the issue of effective planning and coordination of the healthcare delivery services in the country as a result of which professional misconduct prevailed.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had in February this year admitted that the federal government is unable to successfully plan and coordinate health service delivery due to weak governance structures, poor human resource capacity and inefficient core processes.
With the Health Minister perceiving the health sector as a non-performer in the midst of about sixteen ministries, it would then be safe to say that those charged with managing the nation’s health system have completely failed to deliver on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for the citizenry. It is hoped that a fundamental change in the approach to the delivery of health services that recognises and addresses the drivers of under-performance will be brought to bear.
Currently Nigeria risks mass deaths as a result of increasing threat to antimicrobial resistance with an estimated increase of 10 million deaths on global scale annually, at a global cost of $100 trillion.
According to the World Health Organisation, and Centre for Disease Control, the misuse of antibiotics by physicians in clinical practice, unskilled practitioners and poor quality of drug promote the rise in anti-microbial resistance.
We believe that the time is now for government to take a hard look at some of its policies especially the ones that are designed to promote ethical practices among healthcare practitioners in the country.
There is the urgent need to invoke the relevant sections of these policies regularly in order to instill the requisite discipline that will discourage intransigent practitioners from carrying out unethical practices.
Besides, the issue of streamlining drug distribution system in the country which has remained in limbo for too long needs to be addressed. It is not clear if the December 31 deadline given to operators of drug markets across Nigeria to relocate to government approved sites still holds.
The continuous existence of open drug markets coupled with the chaotic nature of drug distribution channels in the country has always been blamed by experts as the reason for the proliferation of substandard drugs in Nigeria.
In the world ranking of best health systems Nigeria performed abysmally and as such the country cannot afford another negative label especially the one that would project it as unserious with the health of her people.
Therefore it has become imperative for government at all levels to look into existing practice regulations in the healthcare delivery system with a view to ascertaining areas of reform that would make implementation effective.
It is also important that government through authorities in the health sector begins to educate healthcare practitioners on the inherent dangers in the culture of rendering services to patients outside the core competence areas of practitioners. There should be stiff penalties for offenders.
However, government should as a matter of urgency, create the necessary environment to enhance the desire of professionals like pharmacists to contribute effectively to healthcare delivery system in Nigeria.
There is no better time to transform the health sector of Nigeria than now.