As the year ends, the country finds itself faced with yet another uncertain turn of events in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. A preprint study released by scientists from the South African DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA), National Health Laboratory Service, and several universities based on a retrospective analysis of routine epidemiological surveillance data from more than 2,7 million South African cases indicates that the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 increases the risk of reinfection. The risk of breakthrough infection, level of transmissibility, and severity of the infection are still being studied. However, our ability to manage the effects of this variant and the associated wave of infections should not be doubted.
As pharmacy professionals, together with the rest of our colleagues in the multidisciplinary health care team, we have garnered about two years of experience in supporting and treating COVID-19 patients with a high rate of success. As such, our continued efforts to increase vaccine uptake within communities and the work we do towards treating patients as active and vital participants in the health care team should stand the country a good stead to ride the fourth COVID-19 with minimal fatalities. The contribution that Pharmacy continues to make towards the fight against this pandemic is a thing of immeasurable pride and confidence in the calibre of pharmacy professionals South Africa and her people are blessed with. Pharmacies continue to be the biggest vaccinator outside the state public health system and constitute an overwhelming majority of privately-run vaccination sites (about 90% at the time of writing).
Let me also express gratitude to pharmacists who continue to comply with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. While a majority of practising pharmacists have submitted the required minimum of six (6) CPD entries, we still have a negligible number of colleagues who are yet to fully comply with the 2021 CPD requirements. I wish to encourage all pharmacists who are struggling with compliance to submit their CPD entries by the end of 2021 so as to start the new year on a clean slate. By the time this issue of the Pharmaciae is published we would have conducted two CPD Masterclass sessions. Recordings of these, together with tutorials will continue to be available through the OfficialSAPC YouTube channel and the CPD Blog; I thus encourage all to fully utilise these resources to ensure a rewarding CPD compliance experience.
The work of the South African Pharmacy Council to support the attainment of Human Resource for Pharmacy and National Health Human Resource Strategy targets concerning the production of adequately and highly skilled pharmacy professionals. In June 2022, the old National Certificate and Further Education and Training Certificate in Pharmacy Assistance will come to an end with their last intake. These will be replaced by the Occupational Certificate: Pharmacy Technician, with three exit levels/part qualifications: Pharmacist’s Assistant (Basic), Pharmacist’s Assistant (Post-Basic), and Pharmacy Technician (this exit outcome will be rolled out once the relevant regulations have been promulgated).
Our work towards guarding the good name of the profession and safeguarding the public’s right to good pharmaceutical care continued unabated despite the inconvenience brought about by COVID-19. The disciplinary committees of Council have continued to investigate, prosecute and mete out sentences where unprofessional conduct is proven to have occurred. The Committee of Formal Inquiry (CFI) has issued sanctions against seven (7) pharmacists and pharmacy owners for various acts of unprofessional conduct ranging from fines to removal of the pharmacy concerned from the register of pharmacies. What continues to be an act of concern is the dangerous practice of operating a pharmacy without the presence of a pharmacist, we call upon owners and responsible pharmacists to frown upon this unbecoming behaviour as it endangers the lives of patients. Council will not hesitate to enforce a sentence equal to this transgression.
At this time, we would have published the annual fee schedule for the forthcoming year; however, due to the ongoing process concerning the Regulations relating to fees payable to Council, we had to seek the approval of the Ministry of Health prior to publication. As such we wish to assure the profession that publication would occur before the end of the year. To appreciate the work that the profession is continuously doing at the COVID-19 front line, Council has resolved to adjust the annual fees by a below-inflation 4%.
This issue of the Pharmaciae contains various updates in relation to Council decisions and other operational matters affecting the profession. I encourage you to read through it during the festive season. During this festive season, a time associated with the celebration of love, may love be the cornerstone of all our interactions – I encourage you to share love with your family, friends, and most importantly, your patients.
Mr Vincent Tlala
South African Pharmacy Council