By Kadrie Koroma
Health and Sanitation Minister, Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie, has officially opened the 31st Annual General Meeting and Scientific Symposium of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP) on Tuesday March 12, 2019 at the Freetown International Conference Centre, Bintumani Hotel in Freetown.
Speaking at the four-day Symposium on the theme: “A Paradigm Shift in Pharmacy Education,” Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie recalled that the region was confronted with an unprecedented Ebola Virus Disease outbreak which affected mainly Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and registered appreciations of the people of Sierra Leone to their sister countries, as they dealt with the Ebola Virus Disease.
He informed his audience that the initial response to the outbreak was on indictment on all those entrusted with the responsibility of providing quality health care for their people, adding that a number of useful lessons were learnt which now place them in a better position to respond to any epidemics. He added that their systems are now working towards improved preparedness, including prevention, disease surveillance, rapid detection and response for a more effective and efficient protection of their nation.
Prof. Wurie reiterated that a paradigm shift in education for all professions, including Pharmacy, will have to reply the basic foundations of quality pre-primary, primary, secondary and technical education and training, as well as university education that will enable them to engage in meaningful productive economic activity. He furthered that to demonstrate their commitment to such education, the government is actively working to increase and sustain budgetary allocation to education to a minimum of 20 percent of the national budget.
The Minister acknowledged that the conditions of their institutions of higher learning and in particular University of Sierra Leone and Njala University require input, and therefore urgent actions to develop their Universities and all other higher institutions are underway.
He added that the government is also committed to raising the current spending on health and sanitation from its current level of less than 10 percent to 15 percent as required by the Abuja Declaration, expressing the need to effectively track all donor resources to the sector, and develop public-private sector framework for health care service delivery.
The Health Minister Commended WAPCP and the University of Benin for their ongoing efforts to strengthen Pharmacy manpower development through the training and award of Fellowships and the PharmD programme respectively, and assured of their full support through the local Chapter of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists.
In his statement, the President of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP), Prof. Emeritus Sir Kwame Sarpong, disclosed that they are in Freetown to begin a process of stock taking of the activities and performance of their College over the past year.
He told the gathering that as far back as 1974, the informal discussions started among Pharmacists in member countries of the West African region at international conferences, and such interactions eventually attracted the attention of national Pharmaceutical associations and societies.
Prof. Emeritus Sir Kwame Sarpong reiterated that the idea of having an umbrella for regional organization finally emerged and led to the formation of the West African Pharmaceutical Federation (WAPF). He noted that Pharmacists in the region realized the need to come together to harmonize and develop pharmacy education, laws and practice, in order to improve the quality of healthcare and the life of the people of the region.
He disclosed that the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists was established under the educational mandate of the West African Pharmaceutical Federation, and the college was officially inaugurated in Accra, Ghana in February 1991.
The WAPCP President further disclosed that the college admitted its first batch of Fellows by examination in February 1997, adding that on 2nd November 1999, the Assembly of Health Ministers (AHM) of the then West African Health Community (WAHC) approved the change of name from WAPF to WAPCP.
Giving the welcome address, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Sierra Leone (PSSL), Pharmacist Murtada Mohamed Sesay, said it is exactly six years ago since they last hosted the 25th Annual General meeting and Scientific Symposium in Freetown.
He informed his audience that barely a year after the last meeting in Freetown, the country was plagued with the Ebola epidemic which ended up claiming over 11,000 lives in the region, adding that Sierra Leone was then considered the most affected with almost 4,000 related deaths out of a caseload of almost 900,000.
Pharmacist Murtada Sesay further explained that on the morning of August 14, 2017, following three days of torrential rainfall, significant mudflow events occurred in and around the capital, adding that mud and debris destroyed hundreds of buildings in the City, killing 1,141 people and leaving more than 3,000 homeless.
He reiterated that with all the challenges mentioned above and the consequent demand on their profession for action, their focus as a new executive has been to totally rebrand key aspects of their mandate to better respond to pressing pharmaceutical sector needs of their country, especially with regards to a health supply chain that is fit-for-purpose, close to where their people live and work.