It was Napoleon Hill, the renowned self-help author, who once said that “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.” This perhaps captures the mind of Pharm. Chima Agnellus Ogbu, current chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Rivers State, and chief executive officer/superintendent pharmacist, Medigate Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Port Harcourt, in this exclusive interview. Ogbu, a former national publicity secretary of Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), reveals the successes so far recorded by his administration in the state, despite many challenges and hindrances facing the practice. He also highlighted strategies that community pharmacists and other stakeholders can adopt to improve pharmacy practice in the country. Exceprts:
Briefly give us a glimpse into your pharmacy journey.
I am a “Port Harcourt boy”, having been born in the Garden City on Sunday, 19 February 1967. But I hail from Umudiwoha Umuegbu, Umuma– Isiaku, in Ideato South LGA of Imo State.
I had my primary education in PH, at the State School 2, Rebisi; my secondary education at Bishop Shanahan College, Orlu, Imo State; and my tertiary education at the great University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), from where I graduated with a B.Pharm degree in 1992. I am currently a student of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP).
I have been involved in pharmacy professional leadership from my days in the university to date, cutting across PANS, PIC, ACPN, and PSN. I have also served in numerous PSN and ACPN committees at both state and national levels.
As a community pharmacist and CEO of Medigate Pharmacy Ltd. PH, I have, through my practice, mentored younger colleagues and impacted strongly on the healthcare delivery system of my community, in particular, and the state, at large. I am a public health advocate who enjoys using the new media (social media) to drive global health information and best pharma practices for the health and wellbeing of society.
How many of your goals as PSN chairman, Rivers State, have you achieved so far, and which ones are ahead?
PSN Rivers State is a frontline branch of our great society. As chairman, I set out with the “team advantage” mantra, conscious of the fact that every member of PSN, Rivers State, including the executives and our revered Board of Fellows, has unique roles to play in the journey to transform PSN, Rivers State into an enviable height. We also continued with the legacy projects of our past leaders, including the iconic Pharmacy Resource Center (PRC) project and the development of the 268-plot Pharmacy Estate, at Isiokpo, Ikwerre LGA.
Following the very successful fundraising at the beginning of my administration and the continuous financial support of the great Rivers pharmacists, construction works at the PRC have progressed steadily and the project is today at the roofing stage. My strong belief in human capital development has seen us organising many capacity-building and leadership development seminars and workshops for Rivers pharmacists and the state PSN leadership.
Today, I can state unequivocally that Rivers State PSN is leading other states in Nigeria in the creation of a resourceful and dynamic pool of current and future pharmacy leaders across the technical and interest groups, including the state PSN-YPG. With all sense of humility, Rivers State PSN is about the only state today in the Nigerian pharma space that can boast of three national chairmen of three different technical and interest groups (ACPN, ALPS, and CPAN). This is a direct reflection of our huge investment in human capital development over the years.
In the practice, we continue to emphasise quality, efficiency, and affordability in all aspects of pharmaceutical care and services, including community, hospital, and industry. My administration has also boosted with amazing results the fight against drug and substance abuse in the state by taking the battle to our youth’s domains in secondary schools and tertiary institutions in Rivers State including the Elechi Amadi Polytechnic and the Rivers State University (RSU). In doing this, we have deployed massive media campaigns in the electronic, print, and new media (social media).
As PSN chairman and a community pharmacist yourself, what is your assessment of community pharmacy practice in Rivers State?
Community pharmacy practice in Rivers State has continued to grow in numbers and the quality of pharmaceutical services delivery has continued to impact positively on the healthcare delivery system of our dear state.
Rivers State remains a frontline state in terms of quality, efficient, and affordable community pharmacy practice and services in Nigeria.
What are the challenges facing practitioners in the state and how can these be surmounted?
Pharmacy practice challenges, both in the community and hospital spaces in Rivers State, are not different from those in other states across the nation. The challenges we face range from weak regulation and enforcement, to inadequate support from the government to both the state PIC and the state task force on fake, substandard drugs and unwholesome processed foods. We also have the existence of open drug markets (ODM), and the public misconception of the community pharmacists’ vital role in the value chain of the healthcare delivery system in the state.
We shall continue to advocate and lead greater efforts to reverse these ugly trends for the health and wellbeing of our dear Rivers people.
There are frequent reports of community pharmacies closing down or being put up for sale by owners. What could be causing this, and how can community pharmacy business be made more profitable and sustainable in the country?
Community pharmacies have professional practice and business administration components. The growth, profitability, and sustainability of community pharmacies reflect, to a large extent, the regulatory, economic, and policy frameworks of our operating environment.
The lack of infrastructure – especially power and roads, weak regulations and enforcements, high interest rates by banks and financial institutions, multiple taxations, low capacity utilisation across the pharmaceutical value chain, and regular changes in policies and politics of government have contributed heavily to this ugly scenario.
As a group with an undiluted passion for service delivery to our teaming population, the community pharmacists leadership in Nigeria will continue to engage the government and all stakeholders to change these narratives and ensure that the practice and business of community pharmacy are not only profitable to the practitioner but beneficial to the patients, clients, and patrons, with a view to achieving the global best practices benchmarks for our dear country.
What can you say about the happenings in the healthcare sector in Rivers State?
The Rivers State health sector under the leadership of His Excellency, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has witnessed a great boost, with huge infrastructural and human capital development. All levels of the state healthcare delivery system – from primary, secondary to tertiary – are receiving good attention from the government. The collaboration among the healthcare professionals has been growing and this has been very instrumental in the success the state recorded in the current battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
As pharmacists, we will continue to appeal to the state government to boost and expand pharmaceutical services in all government health facilities, employ more pharmacists, create more internship positions for our young pharmacy graduates, and approve for implementation in the state the Federal Government approved consultancy cadre for consultant pharmacists in Nigeria.
What are your recommendations on improving the welfare of pharmacists in the country?
The welfare of pharmacists and indeed all health workers in Nigeria should be a priority of the government. Pharmacists play and will continue to play important roles in the healthcare delivery system of every nation. From the pharmaceutical research institutes to the industries, hospitals, and community pharmacies, the Nigerian government needs to create a special welfare scheme or insurance cover for these men of honour who labour day and night to ensure that we access quality, effective and affordable medicines across the nation.
While we appreciate the recent CBN intervention fund for the pharmaceutical sector, the federal government can create a special “Pharmacy Bank” to cater for the total development of our pharmaceutical sector to guarantee medicine security for our dear country. Our recent terrifying experience with scarcity of essential drugs, hand sanitizers, and medical appliances at the peak of the pandemic in 2020 is a wake call for the government to address the development of the pharma sector and by extension the welfare of pharmacists in Nigeria