Pharm. (Mrs) Victoria Okwu is the national chairperson of the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs). In this exclusive with Pharmanews, she discusses the vision and achievements of her administration, the roles being played by lady pharmacists in combatting COVID-19, as well as her view of the leadership of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, among other issues. Excerpts:
You have led ALPs national for about two years now. What milestones have you achieved so far?
We have built on the efforts of the last executives, and more states are now functional and active. We have also identified some actvities to be carried out annually, which include United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and the International Day of the Girl Child. We have also strengthened communication with the PSN national and also with all its various technical groups.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has revealed the vulnerability of our healthcare system, with several yawning gaps. What major role have lady pharmacists played in bridging these gaps?
Lady pharmacists were in a dilemma with the challenge of continuing their duties as mothers, while continuing to provide care directly or indirectly professionally, with a potentially very contagious disease making the rounds. ALPs noticed also that most healthcare workers don’t use PPE routinely. There was also disruption of the global supply chain of PPEs.
ALPs embarked on advocacy to all lady pharmacists to take the use of PPEs seriously and increase levels of hygiene, both at work and at home. We also increased public education on preventive measures, including hand washing, use of face masks, avoidance of crowded areas, and avoiding unnecessary movements.
Increase in prices of medicine is another effect of COVID-19 on the poor masses, especially women and children. As an interest group of the PSN, was there any intervention to ameliorate this condition among these sets of people?
We advised on preventive measures to avoid sickness and in case of ill-health, we advised on rational use of drugs as the way to circumvent the effect of increased prices. To cushion the effect of the pandemic, we distributed food items: rice, beans, vegetable oil, tomato puree and so on to some widows in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
How would you assess the performance of this crop of PSN national leadership?
The Mazi Sam Ohuanunwa led executive committee has done creditably well, especially in building the capacity of pharmacists, using the various technical groups. The partnership with the CBN, resulting in huge funding for pharmaceutical research and manufacturing is a tremendous achievement. The FG’s recognition of the professional fellowship (consultant pharmacist) is also a milestone, among many others.
What are the grey areas in the agenda of this PSN leadership that ALPs want amended?
More inclusion of ALPIANS in positions, in the executive, fellowships and others.
Are there challenges hindering the ALPs from achieving its goals? If yes, name them and suggest means of resolving them.
The COVID disruptions, uneven distribution of lady pharmacists and the infancy of some of the states’ structures. We trust that the numbers will increase with more pharmacy schools and graduating pharmacists; and we plan to nurture the state chapters to greater strength and effectiveness.
What is your vision for ALPs?
My vision is that of a vibrant ALPs, with very strong state structures, all improving the health of the nation and contributing to the uplift of lady pharmacists, mentoring young female pharmacists and enhancement of the Pharmacy profession.