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Khan to crack down on pharmacies

...for selling drugs without prescriptions

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

A crackdown on pharmacies that are selling prescriptive drugs without a prescription is in the works, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has said.

A sting operation will be launched whereby people posing as customers will go to various pharmacies around the country to see if they can easily obtain drugs without a prescription.

Khan spoke on the issue yesterday at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

"Our pharmacies in Trinidad and Tobago, for the longest while, have been giving medications over the counter and then looking after the prescriptions thereafter," said Khan.

"What I'm trying to do is to put into place ... a system where we have something similar to the mystery shoppers who would go around to the different pharmacies and develop a sort of system and these will be retired Customs officers, retired teachers and people of that ilk."

Speaking to the Express last night by phone, Khan explained if a pharmacy was found selling drugs without a prescription, a report would be made to the Pharmacy Board and that pharmacy's licence could be suspended.

Last week, director of the Barbados Fertility Centre, Dr Juliet Skinner, told the Express it was a well-known fact prescriptive drugs such as fertility medicine Clomid could be obtained over the counter in Trinidad and Tobago without a prescription.

Clomid is prescribed to stimulate ovulation and help a woman get pregnant.

Khan also announced $128 million will be spent to upgrade the St James Radiotherapy Centre and in a couple days, work would begin on the long overdue Oncology Centre to be constructed at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex at Mt Hope.

The upgrade to the St James Radiotherapy Centre will include the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment including linear accelerators for cancer treatment, a second operating theatre, an intensive care unit, separate male and female wards, upgrades of washrooms and doctors' offices and installation of a central air-conditioning system.

Khan said the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) would put out open tenders for these works.

Cabinet passed a note yesterday approving the procurement of a new Health Information Management System (HIMS) which will propel the public health sector into e-health, he said.

"HIMS is going to make obsolete the need for paper and for records," said Khan, noting there were always problems with losing medical records and delays in getting investigative reports.

Every computer in the health sector would be linked to this new system and unique identification cards will be given to patients.

Khan said the e-health security systems in countries like South Korea, New Zealand and India would be examined to ensure there is security with respect to patients' data.

He said he hoped to get this system up and running through a phased plan in 18 months.

The system allowing nurses to get more training would also be revised.

A person currently needs three O-Levels to apply to the Nursing Council and get into the Enrolled Nursing Assistants (ENA) programme.

He said to advance for training as a registered nurse (RN), five O-Levels—inclusive of grade ones in English and mathematics—were compulsory.

He explained that even from the ENA, the students were required to get the two additional O-Level passes to advance to RN training.

Khan said young people had a lot of practical experience and not necessarily the academic passes, therefore the ministry would be allowing these students entry into the "aides to nursing" level and from there they could sit examinations which would take them to the Patient Care Assistants (PCA) and ENA levels.

This way, there will be "multiple streams of movement" and opportunities for young people to advance in these fields," Khan said.

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