Association caution Health Ministry on the handling of medicines

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By Retšelisitsoe Khabo

Pharmaceuticals Society of Lesotho and Lesotho Pharmacy Technicians’ Association have called for the Ministry of Health to ensure compliance to laws regulating the handling of medicines and medical supplies as it recruits personnel.

A joint statement by the two associations raised their concerns over the ministry’s recruitment of supply chain management posts cautioning that only qualified persons in terms of the law should handle medicines and medical supplies.

The Associations said the Health Ministry must be aware that the Lesotho Medical Dental and Pharmacy Order of 1970 (LMDA ORDER NO 13 OF 1970) section 11 subsections 1(a) and (b) read with subsection 2 of the order points that the “pharmacists and pharmacy technologists are the only custodians of medicines”.

The association, said while it applauds the ministry for ensuring that other commodities have rightful custodians in terms of supply chain management it hopes that these commodities do not include “medicines and medical supplies” that fall under ambit of pharmacists and pharmacy technologists.

The associations said they will not allow non-pharmacy personnel to handle medicines nor its supply chain in Lesotho.

In an interview with KDNews, President of Pharmaceuticals Society of Lesotho Atisang Mokhele said they have discovered a ministry of health notice of recruitment that requires people with a Bachelor of Arts degree in supply chain, Bachelors of Science degree in pharmacy, and some experience in supply chain, people who have a Bachelor of Science degree in laboratory technician.

Mokhele told KDNews that some posts needed people who have just a Metric and a diploma in supply chain.

Mokhele said the LMDA ORDER NO 13 OF 1970 provides that wherever there are pharmaceuticals and medicines in particular they should be in “the custody of a qualified professional and that case it should be a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician depending on the type of the medicine”.

He told KDNews the ORDER NO 13 OF 1970 also provides for other health professionals like doctors and certain classes of nurses to handle medicines and medical supplies.

“Even though the ORDER NO 13 OF 1970 gives other health professionals the chance, we as the pharmacists are the ones who have the custody to handle and to procure medicine,” he said.

Mokhele said there is already a lack of adequate laws that govern the use of medicines in Lesotho, in terms of how they should be stored and who can oversee and prescribe them.

Mokhele said it can be dangerous to find out that it is unclear on how people who will get those posts if they are not pharmacists, where would they start and end with their work.

He said their concern is that they do not know, as the post it is not clear on how they will interact with the pharmacists working on the various health centers.

He told KDNews that they encourage the ministry to set up a functional supply chain management system.

Mokhele emphasized that they haven’t got any clarity on how people who are going get those job post are going to interact with pharmacists.

He said they are unwilling to allow that process to carry on without clarity on how the interaction is going to go between pharmacists in the government storages and people who are going to be hired in case they are not pharmacists.

He said these types of posts are supposed to be held by people with qualifications in pharmacy and experience in supply chain and another certificate in supply chain as it has been.

He added that the institution that trains the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have trained them to manage the supply and the availability of medicine across the country therefore there is no use to outsource.

‘‘We feel like it is counterproductive if there are already people who are available and qualified to handle medicine but the government outsources other people who do not have the required skills and knowledge to do such job effectively,’’ he said.