Pharmacists vs doctors: The ongoing 'debate'

MARCH 11 ― It is sad to see medical professionals being pitted against one another.

Doctors and pharmacists are, after all, on the same team, working towards the same goal. We are medical professionals first. Everything else is a disposable second.

As medical professionals, we are bound by our oaths to serve humanity first. Greed stemming either from corporate influence, or egoistic “turf wars” should not even be considered a priority.

We should all be united in working towards better healthcare service for the public, and better working conditions including remunerations and career paths for all medical professionals.

I watched in horror as a GP and pharmacist “debated” (if you can call it that) on Astro Awani a while back, wondering what good would come out of it. Wondering what were the motives behind such a segment.

Only a fool can expect a good and amicable outcome from such an exercise, given the nature and timing of the argument.

While everyone is busy defending “their” camp, they forgot to ask the most important question to the government, especially the Ministry of Health.

WHY now?

The Ministry says it is to reduce incidences of dispensing error. Alright, I understand that. But where are the facts, figures, and data to support a change in policy that will not only increase medical cost, but also inconvenience the end users i.e patients?

Are the numbers high enough that the only solution is to separate prescription and dispensing, instead of proper enforcement and monitoring by the Ministry of Health of respective clinics?

Are the numbers so high that they warrant inconveniencing patients to get a prescription chit from their doctors, and then look for a pharmacy in order to buy the medicines?

What about the rural areas? There are many clinics, but are there enough pharmacies to cater for them all?

Will there be a separate consultation fee for pharmacists? Will the government finally put a stop to “pharmacists” playing “doctors” when this takes off? After all, it is an open secret many pharmacies sell antibiotics, diabetic and hypertensive medication without prescription.

If the answer to all the questions is a big “YES”, then by all means.

But if the answer is a weak “yes” and multiple “no's”, we need to question the motive behind this move.

Perhaps it is to staunch unemployment among pharmacists? Or a business move to monopolize the medical trade?

Be that as it may, separating the prescription and dispensing will only help the unemployment in the short run. The real solution is to stop churning them out en masse like teachers, radiographers, nurses and now even doctors.

And I sincerely hope this move is not to satisfy some corporate giant whose wet dream is to profit from the Malaysian public's illnesses and misery.

Doctors and pharmacist should sit down together for the sake of the Malaysian public. We need to speak in the same voice, in the same tone and manner to prevent unscrupulous parties taking advantage of this whole situation.

The public's health is at stake here. Our egos can wait.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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