The National Pharmacy Council (NPC) has announced plans to streamline the industry, by ensuring that all pharmacies in the country are manned by competent and accredited staff.
This is part of the council's five-year strategic plan that was established early this year. The draft was discussed by stakeholders yesterday.
The council was set up in January.
According to Joseph Kabatende, the head of pharmaceutical services at the Ministry of Health, in the past, practitioners were registered by the ministry but the duties have since been passed on to the council.
The council also has the mandate to set up mechanisms through which they will regulate the industry, key of which is to guarantee that only competent professionals are allowed to practice.
"Besides one having a Bachelor's degree in pharmacy, an aspiring pharmacist will be subjected to an exam before being accredited and registered to practice. If one fails, they will be allowed to work under the supervision of the NPC until they pass," Kabatende said.
Key areas of intervention
The document, that was discussed in Kigali yesterday, will serve as a blue print for the council's decision making for the next five years.
The document indicates that to optimise mechanisms to ensure pharmacy practitioners are competent and fit to practice, efforts will be made to ensure that: effective regulation is in place; effective registration policies and processes are in place and implemented; in addition to qualifications of applicants for registration and licenses.
Apart from fitness to practice, the draft strategic plan had four other key areas of intervention - organisation and management; pharmacy practice standards; capability and capacity; and accountability to the public and stakeholders.
Under the NPC, pharmacists will work to ensure a profession that offers quality driven, result oriented and patient centred services, they said.
The strategic plan also provides the framework for defining and implementing priority activities and monitoring progress.
Kabatende added, "The strategic plan is a tool that will give you the basics for the pharmacy council - the vision and roadmap of where you are going."
He advised that pharmacists to put more emphasis on capacity building.
Reiterating the importance of collaboration, Kabatende stressed that the NPC is for "professionals who must play an important advisory role to the Ministry of Health and training agencies "on what can be done to make the pharmacy profession even better."
"We need to create a round-table to share the challenges we meet in the health sector. We need to be creative, so as to address issues."
The NPC chairperson, Raymond Muganga, said the council seeks to be an organisation that has the confidence of patients.
Muganga said, "We have a dream which will be achieved by the strategic plan, but every player in the industry has to be on board to achieve this."
The NPC partly gets technical and financial assistance from Usaid, the US government foreign aid agency, through the integrated health strengthening system project (IHSSP) which supports professional health councils in the country.
Dr. Moses Ahabwe, an IHSSP representative, noted that whatever Usaid supports "has to be sustained."
"It must be sustained by your own effort and this is where your strategic planning comes in. The council is new but you are making good progress and we are impressed. It shows that you have the ability to sustain the achievements," Ahabwe said.
"You also need to focus on the aspect of revenue generation. The IHSSP will still give support in skills development and, in research and business development and planning, after you have validated your strategic plan."
Kelly Hamblin, the Usaid supply chain advisor, highlighted the US government's commitment to help building "a strong health system" in the country, especially because "Rwanda is upfront in terms of building a strong healthcare system."
The importation of medicines is done by the Ministry of Health and the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), which then distribute it to health facilities countrywide.
For the public sector, in Kigali, there are 43 (31 per cent) pharmacy professionals and 94 (69 per cent) in the countryside. The private sector in Kigali has 185 (77 per cent) professionals and 54 (23 per cent) in the provinces.
Members of the public welcomed the idea of having in place professionally accredited pharmacists.
Micheline Mutesi, a Kigali resident, told Saturday Times that the idea of the strategic plan is "a nice and welcome one" but quickly pointed out that "pharmacies in rural areas are few."
In the private sector, there are 168 retail pharmacies and 43 wholesale pharmacies with 46 pharmacy professionals.
Pharmacies will soon be required to spread out and decongest from particular localities after Parliament passed a Bill establishing regulations on food supplements, medicines, medical devices, poisons, cosmetics, herbal medicine and other related health commodities.