One of my closest friends is a pharmacist so i usually prick up my ears when matters pharmaceutical are in the news. My friend who taught at UTech in the 90s used to tell her students that they HAD to pay attention in her class because unlike Literature or Sociology students any mistake they made was likely to kill somebody.
Well pay attention to this. The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica, Valerie Germaine, has been sent on half pay leave (from her government job) by the Public Services Commission. Coincidentally this happened days after Germaine appeared on a local TV programme called Morning Time in which she spoke frankly of the acute shortage of qualified pharmacists in the system. In fact, said she, the government was filling the vacancies with technicians who are not properly qualified to be issuing prescriptions to the public which they are at present doing.
Interviewed on Nationwide by Emily Crooks and Naomi Francis this morning Mrs. Germaine said that after her TV appearance she was called into a meeting with health ministry officials, including the Minister of Health, and given a ‘serious scolding’. The half pay leave followed soon after. A health ministry official who was also interviewed on Nationwide denied that any punitive action had been taken against Mrs Germaine for fulfilling her role as President of the Pharmaceutical Association. The Association however says the government is trying to muzzle them. The matter is being investigated said the Health Ministry official who was unable to respond to Crooks and Francis when they asked about the specific offence being investigated. What are the charges, they persistedin asking, without recieving any satisfactory answer.
What emerged from the radio interviews i heard was a contrast being made between private sector pharmacies which adhered to international best practices and the public sector which was in violation of them. The Jamaica Pharmacists’ Association was originally established with fifteen members and in 1944 the name was changed to the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica (PSJ) according to the association’s website. Interestingly the website is hosted by the Private Sector Association of Jamaica.
We await further developments with bated breath. Hopefully people’s lives are not at risk in the meantime.