FULL TEXT: PRESS CONFERENCE OF PSN PRESIDENT, PHARM A. YAKASSI

Distinguished members of National Executive Council, Respected Gentlemen of the Press, I welcome everyone to this press conference and thank you for your presence at Pharmacy House this morning. This is my first press conference as the President of our noble society. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), one of the oldest and most organized professional associations in Nigeria appreciates your presence.
This press briefing is organized primarily to inform the media and public about our activities and an appraisal of health sector in Nigeria. However, let me use this opportunity to thank all Nigerian Pharmacists for electing me and giving me the privilege of becoming the 20th President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria.
My vision as the President of PSN is to strengthen our society with collaborative, participatory, responsive and transparent leadership.
My focus to achieve this vision includes:
1.         Enhancing the role of PSN by means of wider advocacy at various national and international fora
2.         Stimulating public awareness and knowledge on various health, hygiene, sanitation issues and diseases with specific emphasis on drugs.
3.         Promoting rational use of drugs with cooperation from Medical Fraternity.
4.         Foster better communications with Federal and State Ministries, NAFDAC, NPHCDA, NDLEA, PCN, NHIS, Schools of Pharmacy, etc.
5.         Strengthening ties and relationship with other professional organizations/agencies.
6.         Establish a mechanism for recognizing and endorsing valuable contributions of members (past, present and future)
7.         Encourage and give more opportunities and build capacities of young pharmacists and students of pharmacy.
8.         Strengthening institutional framework (structure, systems and processes) of PSN
9.         Review of pharmacy laws and regulation in collaboration with relevant arms of government in tandem with global best practices.
10.       ctualization of Pharm. D. programme as a minimum entry requirements for the practice of pharmacy in Nigeria.
14.       Creativity in organizing Annual National Conference of PSN to match international standard.
16.       Creation of online system for professional registration and e-learning for MCPD.
17.       Establish research grants to undertake research and independent assessment of drug quality, MCPD needs of pharmacists, etc. in collaboration with academia.
18.       Initiate professional indemnity insurance to pharmacists and strengthen group insurance. At the same time pursue vigorously the welfare of health workers in Nigeria.
19.       Establishment of Friends of Pharmacy Forum to strengthen bonds with external bodies.
20        To bring about digital innovations to enhance the efficiency of our practice in-line with international standards.
21.       Greater engagement with the public through educative and enlightening special promotion campaigns e.g. Diabetes, hypertension etc.
AN APPRAISAL OF THE HEALTH SECTOR
In a bid to have a holistic and impactful session this morning, we shall posit along two major themes which are;
THE HEALTH SECTOR OF NIGERIA: In 2015, the Health sector of Nigeria witnessed good and bad times. In short it was of mixed fortunes for the health sector in Nigeria. On the positive side was the resolve of government and care providers to prevent new episodes of the wild polio virus infection which had hitherto given Nigeria notoriety as one of the major exporters of this killer childhood disease. However, for Nigeria to be completely delisted from the endemic countries we must sustain the surveillance and immunization so that by 2017 we can be certified free of polio. This eradication of polio can only be possible if the Federal and State governments continue to meet the financial commitments to sustain the momentum. On this note, I must appreciate the efforts of Federal and state governments, Rotary International, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and indeed all the health care workers for the efforts in eradicating the disease and maintaining the record of no single case of wild Polio Virus infection which made it possible to be given provisional certificate of clean bill of health.
Another positive event in 2015 was the ability to curtail and prevent fresh cases or resurgence of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
Despite these seeming gains healthcare still remains in dire strait on the basis of a holistic appraisal.
A.        In the earlier part of 2015, the whole of the health sector was plagued in unprecedented strike action as a result of a legion of welfare issues and alleged violations of Memorandum of Understandings (MOU) as well as agreements with workers in the health sector.
B.        Nigeria’s first National Health Act was passed into law in 2014, but nothing serious has happened in terms of operating the basic tenets of the enabling Act. This Act, if implemented will be funded from 1 percent of Nigeria’s consolidated revenue and grants by International donor partners through the National Health Care Development Agency which will manage 45% of the fund as follows:
1.         Essential Drugs and Vaccines 20%
2.         Laboratory Equipment and Transport 15%
3.         Human Resources 10%
While the National Health Insurance Scheme which will manage 50% of the fund will cover pregnant women, children who are less than five years, the elderly from 65 years and physically challenged persons. The Federal Ministry of Health will manage 5% of the fund for the provision of basic minimum package of health facilities (Emergencies).
C.        The country’s health sector is still battling with poor access to public health interventions, while diseases like HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, etc are still with us. Here, I need to advocate that there is a need to review our dependence on donor agencies, hence the government should strongly create enabling environment by way of intervention funds to enable our local drug manufacturers to produce antiretroviral drugs and even Vaccines. As we are all aware Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization Initiatives is gradually withdrawing from Nigeria. I must appreciate the Federal government through the National Health Care Development Agency for organizing Stakeholders forum on Vaccines production to stimulate interest and develop a business plan for local vaccines production in Nigeria.
As we march on in 2016, the Federal Government must embrace universal health coverage to give teeth to global norms which presume that access to health must be the right of all citizens. The fastest way to achieving this is to embrace primary healthcare which places a premium on preventive care.
The Federal Ministry of Health must promote a true Public Private Partnership agenda which is fashioned out in conjunction with the relevant regulatory agencies and professional bodies with regards to the health professions.
The welfare issues which have lingered for so long must be redressed. Adjustment of the CONHESS scale like was done with CONMESS scale to ensure parity must be achieved through the 2016 budgets. The clamor for consultancy cadre must be approved for those health workers who have met the condition precedent with regards to due process.
In 2016 the legal and moral teeth must be given the Health Act as part of an agenda to energize healthcare plans for our people.
It is our hope that the 2016 budget (3.65%) will be fully implemented.
2.         LASSA FEVER: A NEED TO RE-ORIENTATE APPROACH TO PUBLIC HEALTH REALITIES.                                     
In the last couple of months the country has been ravaged by Lassa fever, a hemorrhagic inclined fever similar but probably not as deadly as the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). At the last count, Lassa fever had spread to ten states of the federation killing almost 50 people in the affected states.
As usual in line with protocol, the WHO and other donor agencies have been briefed. On each of these occasions, we have had to contend with public health emergencies, we have conditioned our nation with a health system that thrives on ad-hoc measures rather than build structures anchored on invincible myth which are both enduring and sustainable.
The fundamental problem with our health system appears to be unfortunate emphasis on curative rather than preventive healthcare. The norm in every civilized or evolving cline is to nurture and build a virile as well as viable primary healthcare model which embraces the utilization of the skills, expertise and on-hands experience of all healthcare professionals and workers. To the detriment of consumers of health in our nation, the culture and philosophy of primary healthcare has been continually jeopardized, negated, frustrated and almost destroyed.
In the active days of EVD, the erstwhile leadership of the Federal ministry of health promised more proactive measures to actualize the primary care concept which the National Health Act has legitimized today. Typical of us, we have waited for another epidemic styled Lassa fever (a recurrent annual epidemic) to emerge as a reality/ public health emergency before coming up with the vintage reactionary slogans.
The PSN wishes to call on the incumbent Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole whose body language and comportment epitomizes a radical departure from this status-quo which is a gross waste of human resources necessitating wretched outputs, to introduce institutional reforms. The FMoH must then drive the processes which will compel the active participation of community pharmacists and physicians, environmental health officers, nurses, laboratory scientists and other public health experts at grass root levels. These services must be paid for to incentivize these healthcare workers as it ultimately saves our Nation tones of money spent on curative drugs that we waste scarce resources importing.
If a gospel of good hygiene and other public health ideals are spread by health professionals in their practice facilities at community levels and we empower Environmental Health Officers to enforce Health Statutes from 2016, we may begin to reduce our disease burden by over 50% in Nigeria.
Conclusion
 Gentlemen of the press, I want to thank you for this beautiful outing. It is my conviction that you will extend all support you gave my predecessors to me in the true spirit of our friendship. May our friendship and partnership continue to be pharmaceutical, strong and healthy. I wish all of you the best of life this year and beyond, Happy New Year.
Thank you and God bless.
Pharm. Ahmed Ibrahim Yakasai, FPSN, FNAPharm, FNIM
President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria

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