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Restore respect in Uganda’s health system

Monday, 12th October 2015

National Drug Authority (NDA) has been conducting a number of operations in the suburbs of Kampala cracking down on unlicensed drug outlets. During these operations a number of drug outlet operators have been found wanting in terms of qualifications since they did not have any required education and training.

Abonga Ronald posted on NDA’s facebook wondering why even nursing assistants are not allowed to handle drugs? What Abonga, just like many others may not know or be aware of is that a nursing assistant in a health facility provides basic patient care under supervision of a qualified health professional.

The role of nursing assistants at times referred to as nursing care attendants, nursing aides, and nursing attendants in a health facility include: applying clean dressings on patients under direction of nurse or physician, assisting in the operation of medical equipment or provision of patient care, making patients’ beds, cleaning and sanitizing patient rooms, bathrooms, examination rooms, or other patient areas and sometimes, turning bedridden patients regularly. These roles do not qualify a nursing assistant to engage in prescribing and dispensing medicines in a drug shop or clinic as the function requires special knowledge and expertise.

Drugs are not ordinary consumer products. Patients need a qualified health professional who will be in position to make decisions on an appropriate drug to use, how to use them and to weigh potential benefits against risks as no medicine is completely safe. This function cannot be left to a nursing assistant.

However, the public needs to appreciate that accessing drugs from a qualified health professional provides assurance for better health benefits. Rägo & Santoso, “Drug Regulation: History, Present and Future”, assert the need for professional advise from either prescribers or dispensers in making these decisions as even healthcare professionals (medical doctors, pharmacists) now days are not in capacity to take informed decisions about all aspects of medicines without special training and access to necessary information.

NDA as a statutory body responsible for licensing drug outlets authorises professionals with an approved medical, pharmaceutical or veterinary qualifications who are active in their professional Councils. Human drug shops are supposed to be operated by a pharmacy technician, registered or enrolled nurse, comprehensive nurse, registered or enrolled midwife, clinical officer or anaesthetic assistant. A pharmacy is supposed to be operated by a registered pharmacist assisted by pharmacy technician or nurse.

Accessing drugs from an outlet operated by a nursing assistant or any other unqualified person endangers and exposes the health of the population to wrong prescription resulting in therapeutic failure, resistance to medicines and sometimes death. This therefore undermines the confidence in health systems, health professionals, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

The mandate of NDA as a regulatory body is not only ensure that the drugs on the market are of good quality, safe and efficacious but also to be prescribed and dispensed by qualified health professionals has the responsibility to protect the population from unscrupulous elements in the health sector.

Join NDA efforts in riding the population of death merchants. The public should not patronise them as a way of mitigating the vice to restore respect in Uganda’s health system.