8 January 2020
Today I went where I haven’t been before, the Ministry of Health (MOH). This is the government body that writes and regulates healthcare policy. They advocate for public health and mobilize resources needed to support healthcare providers and innovations/initiatives to improve health. It is the MOH who ultimately needs to be convinced how important the pharmaceutical care role of the pharmacist is to improving safe medication use and patient health in Uganda. It is not that they don’t know this – the pharmacists and other healthcare providers know that pharmacists are critical members of the healthcare team but they need evidence to be able to convince the rest of parliament to make policy changes and then support these with appropriations. Winnie and I were invited to speak with Dr Fred Sebisubi, the Pharmacy Commissioner at the MOH to discuss the pharmaceutical care implementation project. I had briefly met him yesterday at the One Health meeting but today we were able to succinctly outline my work over the past 10 years with PSU and Makerere University towards building capacity for pharmaceutical care (PC) implementation in Uganda. All of that prior groundwork has led to the currently project proposal and PC implementation research. It was a fantastic meeting and sharing of ideas and goals. The MOH has already begun work towards this as well and it is time to bring everything together.
I also spoke with Dr. Sebisubi about his role in the upcoming Regional World Health Summit (WHS) presentation. Behind the scenes while at home in New York last September, Winnie and I hatched a plan to propose a platform session for this conference to be held in Kampala in late April. Did you catch that? Winnie was a guest in my home for a long weekend in September!! She was actually hosted for 2 weeks in the US by Dr. Dana Manning and the Wilkes University School of Pharmacy, my prior university, and I was able to have Winnie stay with me for a few days in Binghamton, NY. She participated in a lecture in one of my colleagues’ courses on a Friday and gave a short presentation about the use of traditional medicines, herbal products, in Uganda to my Complementary and Alternative Medicine course. It turns out that Winnie is on the organizing committee for the WHS in Kampala and as we were sitting at my dining room table working on the PC protocol, she received an email calling for proposals for the conference. We recognized this would be a great opportunity to share our work. The idea behind the World Health Summit is to bring stakeholders from all sectors, civil service, public sector, academia, private sector, and government and policy makers, together to figure out how to solve healthcare challenges. Every proposed session has to include at least a few of these. Winnie and I had asked Dr. Sebisubi to contribute and we are thrilled he agreed back then. So today, we were able to present our ideas for the session, which was accepted, and discuss his role.
Before leaving the MOH, Winnie and I met with a friend of hers, Jimmy, a Biostatistician for MOH. He had lots of helpful ideas regarding the PC research and I’m so glad we were able to catch him in the office on the spur of the moment.
In the afternoon, we went to Nakesero Hospital, another private hospital in Kampala, to speak with the Principle Pharmacist, Esther Gasana. I wanted to speak with her to see if she and Nakesero are interested in participating in the PC study. Winnie had told me she is really interested in PC and our conversation confirmed this. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with her and found that she already does quite a lot regarding direct patient interactions and pharmaceutical care. The only factor holding her back is being able to find dedicated time for PC activities when she has full-time administrative duties. She has identified many ways to improve patient care and reports this out at the monthly staff meetings. She also has a very supportive Executive Director who is also encouraging the pharmacists to go on ward rounds. I’m so glad to have her on board for the study!
This evening, we met with the Secretary of PSU, Sam Opio. It was a great reunion as it has been 1.5 years since my last visit to Uganda. Although Sam’s professional pharmacy focus is the pharmaceutical industry, it is his vision for implementation of pharmaceutical care and seeing that it needed to be implemented in Uganda to improve safe medication use way back at our meeting in 2012 that has spurred me on and kept my work on track. He is one busy man but always makes time to see me when I’m in Uganda and tirelessly advocates for pharmaceutical care. It has taken many years, but the time is right to proceed with the PC research and PSU is, of course, in support! Sam will also be a part of the platform session at the WHS. It is shaping up to be an excellent session- Winnie and I are so excited!!!