January 18, 2021

By Mohamed M. Sesay ( Lucky)

As the popular adage goes  “Health is Wealth”, there is also no gain saying that the health sector of every nation is a significant foundation upon which all other sectors rest in the discharge of their various functions.

The blanket reason for the above postulation is that all Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) can never function properly if those that are running them are not of sound health. The Courier adores one of the commendable clusters in President Bio’s New Direction Agenda emphasizing on Human Capital Development. Align with that Human Capital Development cluster; the well-being of citizens is very key in its actualization. Thus, in fulfillment of a country being a healthy nation, premium needs to be placed on Ministries, Department and Agencies that are manned with the responsibility of ensuring that Sierra Leone acclaims the status of a healthy nation which Pharmacy Board is a very sensitive player in this drive.

Equally so, it is comfortably right to say that any nation which fails to adequately empower its health institutions will woefully fail its citizens. And the much-talked-about Human Capital Development will also be in shambles because if one is not healthy, then the  pursuant of education and other developmental activities will be regrettably meaningless and undoable.

Don’t get me twisted as the Courier is very much aware of other strides that the government has put in place to boost the health sector, but the rate at which Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone (PBSL), which serves as the medicines regulatory agency in the country has been consciously neglected over the years is enough to raise the eye-brows of everyone who knows the importance of medicines regulation in a country like Sierra Leone.

Allow the Courier to briefly take you through the statutory mandates of PBSL as enshrined in the Pharmacy and Drugs Act 2001!  As an agency under the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, PBSL is charged with the constitutional responsibilities of regulating medicines (Drugs), medical devices, cosmetics, chemicals, reagents, other related medical products and the practice of pharmacy across the country.

I am of the view that every reasonable person will agree with me that each one of the above mentioned functions or mandates would be extremely difficult to discharge if the agency is not equipped with the required operational vehicles.

For instance, PBSL monitors all public and private pharmaceutical premises across the country on a weekly and quarterly basis as the case may be in order to ascertain that the outlets are conducive for medicines storage and that the medicines are also efficacious, good quality and safe for human consumption. Equally so, the agency has a quarterly Tax Force meeting that it holds with   stakeholders in all the regions to get full update on their day to day regulatory activities.

All these activities involve the movement of staff from one place to another, and this cannot be done without mobility supports i.e. road worthy vehicles

The Courier can further assert and authoritatively affirm that PBSL is without road worthy vehicles to run its operations as I write, and this has resulted to unbearable constraints faced by the agency in terms of mobility supports. This marathon lip-service paid to PBSL equally has the propensity to snail pace the laudable operation of the agency in their periodic raiding of drug peddlers, substandard drug dealers and the importation of counterfeit drugs.

It’s painfully frustrating to know that PBSL had on several years and occasions formally and informally engaged the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for vehicles but on each occasion, the Ministry has been very good at making still born promises of giving old vehicles to the agency. “Till thy kingdom come”, PBSL hasn’t received those old-promised-vehicles on to this moment.

I know its critics might say, “PBSL is a government subvented agency and that it should capture vehicle procurement in its yearly budget”. Well the answer to that is, PBSL has always done just that but the annoying aspect is that its total Budget is always cut down drastically, and even the approved allocated figure has never come on time. This is to say the manner in which the government’s yearly subvention is delivered to PBSL makes it impossible for the agency to purchase official vehicles

However, profound thanks and appreciation go to Global Fund for donating a Toyota Land cruiser in 2017. The only official vehicle that the agency can boast of, even though it has spent more time in the garage than on operations. Pharmacy Board also owes its deepest  thanks to other well-wishers including the World Health Organization for donating some vehicles over the years, although they are no longer in use.

It is even more disgracefully humiliating to note that PBSL has degenerated to the level of renting vehicles for its operations. For instance, PBSL had to spend a huge sum of money on vehicle rental to roll out the current one month Communications campaign on substandard and Falsified medicines across the country, which was supported by W.H.O and the UK Government.

Lack of road worthy vehicles is bringing Pharmacy Board to its knees if the government and well-wishers do not intervene now. The Courier would end this New Year edition by craving on the indulgence of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio and his disciples and by extension, donor partners for their expeditious redemption of PBSL by providing modern mobility supports for the agency. If ministers and other state functionaries are driving SUVs, then PBSL deserves at least a road worthy vehicle for its nationalistic and humanistic operation gearing towards saving lives.