Compulsory service for pharmacists
Published on: Wednesday, July 23, 2003
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Kuala Lumpur: Newly-registered pharmacists will be required to undergo a three-year public service in efforts to overcome the acute shortage of pharmacists in government hospitals nationwide, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said Tuesday.He said the Cabinet gave its approval last month for the law to be amended and the new ruling would take effect early next year after the proposed amendments were tabled at the next parliamentary sitting.

“The Registration of Pharmacists Act 1951 will be amended to make it mandatory for newly-registered pharmacists to serve in the public sector for three years upon full registration,” he said after attending the Health Dialogue 2003, here.

The Act governs the registration and practice of pharmacists in the country. Under the law, a pharmacy graduate has to undergo a year’s housemanship in an institution recognised by the Pharmacy Board before they are eligible for registration with the Board.

Chua said following the amendments, pharmacists would be on par with medical and dental graduates, who are required to undergo the three-year compulsory service.

The Minister admitted that the new ruling would affect the private sector but said there would be only a short-term impact as more experienced pharmacists would join the market later.

“The three-year compulsory service will allow newly-registered pharmacists an invaluable opportunity to gain priceless professional experience in regulatory, community (healthcare) and clinical pharmacy (fields) available in the public sector which are not available to them in the private sector,” he said.

Chua said there was a dire need for pharmacists in government hospitals. Of the 3,234 pharmacists practising in the country, only 583 or 18 per cent are employed in the public sector.

Newly-registered pharmacists seem to shy away from public hospitals.

Between 1994 and 2002, only 280 or 15.2 per cent opted to work in government hospitals while the others joined the more lucrative private sector.

The Minister said the vacancy rate was high in certain states, mainly in Sarawak (79.6 per cent), Negeri Sembilan (72.1 per cent), Sabah (68.2 per cent), Kuala Lumpur (63.6 per cent) and Selangor (61.5 per cent).

Chua said the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended a pharmacist to population ratio of 1:2000 for developed nations but Malaysia’s ratio was only 1:7500, considered low due to its socio-economic development.

Annually, 420 pharmacy graduates join the workforce. The five major local universities produce 360 graduates while another 60 return from overseas yearly.

Only in 2020, following the country’s full achievement of industrial status, could the WHO target be reached, he added.

There is an urgent need for qualified pharmacists, mainly to man new clinics and hospitals that are built; provide professional dispensing services; monitor medication errors and adverse reactions; and offer patient counselling and advice on self-care. - Bernama



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