Shortage of pharmacists in government hospitals all over Tamil Nadu is badly affecting the public health services in the state. Drugs are dispensed to the patients in many health centres by staff nurses or clerical staff.
According to health experts, this is violation of Section 42 of the Pharmacy Act by the government itself. Authorities, who are bound to comply the laws, are allowing non-pharmacist persons to dispense drugs from pharmacies to the patients. Chances are there for occurrence of adverse reactions, misuse of drugs and over dose of antibiotics, due to lack of monitoring by qualified parsons.
“In several of the hospitals, from PHCs to Medical College Hospitals, the drugs are dispensed to the patients either by nurses or clerical staffs. In very few centres, the pharmacies are managed by pharmacists. This is a violation of Section 42 of the Pharmacy Act by the government itself”, said Tamil Vendan, president of Tamil Nadu Pharmacists Welfare Association (TNPWA), a body of private pharmacists in the state.
Although the authorities were reminded of the grave situation prevailing in the hospitals for the last several years, no step has been taken so far by the government to recruit sufficient pharmacists to address the manpower shortage in the pharmacies. This is affecting the smooth functioning of drug dispensing system through government institutions. All the pharmacies are understaffed or overworked by the existing staff.
While briefing Pharmabiz about the soon-to-be-conducted agitations, Vendan said the government is not only apathetic in filling up the existing vacancies of 700 posts, but also not increasing the number of pharmacists in the government hospitals despite the huge growth in the number of patients over the years. As per WHO norms, every hospital should appoint pharmacists at a ratio of one pharmacist for 50 patients. But in India, various state governments have different policies in fixing a ratio for out-patients. In the case of in-patients, the general principle is that one pharmacist should be in service for 75 patients in the ward.
In a recent survey conducted by TNPWA, it has been found that all the District TB Centres in Tamil Nadu are operating without the services of pharmacists. Similarly, in the district offices of the public health department, from where drugs and vaccines are supplied to the hospitals and PHCs, no pharmacist has been appointed.
The Family Welfare Offices working in the district headquarters do keep huge quantities of drugs, but they are functioning without pharmacists.
Usually the vaccines have to be maintained in correct temperature in cold boxes, and qualified and experienced persons need to take care of it. But the district administration of the health department lacks pharmacists to assign for these jobs. Management and delivery of medicines are looked after by unqualified people, sometimes by the class four employees, said Vendan, who was previously working with the health department. He said all the financial allotments through central pool for various health programmes and projects are going waste in the state.
Government has stopped recruitment of pharmacists following a petition by unemployed pharmacists demanding recruitment through employment exchanges. The case is pending with the High Court.
The healthcare institutions in the government sector in Tamil Nadu are managed by three authorities under the health secretary. They are the Directorate of Medical Education, Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services, and Directorate of Public Health. There is a vacancy of 4,000 pharmacists in all the institutions under these directorates.