Bitter pills are not the right treatment for pharmacists

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Recent reports in the local media highlighted that the country needs an additional 200 pharmacists to meet public demand. Pharmacists are versatile and can fill in various posts in the sector. The question that persists, however, is: Are these medical professionals valued enough for the dedicated service they provide? Bitter pills are definitely not the right treatment for pharmacists.

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In order to get a taste of what goes on behind the scenes once pharmacists obtain their degree, a pharmacist who asked to remain anonymous agreed to air the grievances of his fellow professionals.

Pharmacists working in the public sector are not paid a salary commensurate with their expertise, he said. With emotion evident in his eyes, he added: “Why do we end up earning a ridiculous salary working in the public service when we spend the same number of years as doctors studying at University?” If pharmacists are truly valued, they must first of all be given adequate remuneration, that compensates for them having worked their socks off to earn a degree.

At the other end of the spectrum, pharmacists engaged in the private sector, particularly those working in pharmacies end up doing the paperwork that doctors are supposed to do.

“Our job is to take care of patients and not answer telephone calls and book appointments with doctors on behalf of patients,” he said seemingly quite irate. The degree offered by the University of Malta is one of the best in Europe, he pointed out. However, the lack of respect that many pharmacy graduates end up facing at their place of work is unbelievable.

Maybe, the public does not appreciate the fact that pharmacists are the corner stone of primary health care. At the moment, community pharmacy is experiencing a decline in pharmacists as a human resource. The POYC service regularly comes up with new protocols and is piling up the workload on pharmacists, he noted. Pharmacists have to order specific medicines on a weekly basis, and not just make sure that a replacement of these medicines is delivered. This situation is burning bridges between pharmacists and the public.

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On top of this, pharmacists, also waste a lot of time trying to decipher hand written prescriptions made by doctors. They have also set up a group chat, where they send pictures of these prescriptions to each other, for verification. Pharmacists, have rallied for an introduction of an electronic system, were these prescriptions could be easily read, but their cries seem to fall on deaf ears. Situations like these are making pharmacists less customer focused. The situation might seem rosy from a distance, but these professionals feel like they are ploughing a lone furrow.

Reportedly, only a mere 20 pharmacists are graduating from University each year. The role of the pharmacist has changed in recent years, and this has fostered the creation of more job opportunities, however, this factor alone does not explain the shortage of pharmacists that our country is currently experiencing.

“We are losing our true significance in the community. A pharmacist should be there to give people medical advice and offer help with medical prescriptions, not do anything but that”, he said.

Written by

Ryan Vella

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