oa South African Health Review - The pharmacist's assistant : a case study of a mid-level worker option : human resources



Many health care systems have looked to mid-level workers as a way of dealing with a growing shortage of professional human resources, while managing tighter budgets. Although initially opposed by the pharmacy profession, a category of support personnel was recognised formally by the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) as pharmacist's assistants, and has been an ever-growing part of health care delivery in both the public and private sectors since the late 1980s. The way in which such support personnel are trained and utilised was changed substantially in the post-apartheid era. Accredited private providers now cater for all such training in South Africa. Training is done in practice sites approved by the SAPC, with an assessment done on site or in assessment centres. Pharmacy legislation has provided for two categories of pharmacist's assistant - basic and post-basic level. An appropriate scope of practice has been developed for each cadre. Of note, post-basic assistants can work under indirect supervision in some settings. This concession is particularly important in primary care services at district level. Funding for pharmacist's assistant training can be accessed through the skills development system. There are currently 3 063 pharmacist's assistants or learner assistants registered with the SAPC. There are still considerable barriers to the efficient and effective utilisation of pharmacist's assistants, particularly in the public sector. A post structure and career path for assistants is urgently needed. This will be particularly true after 1 July 2005, when the Pharmacy and Medicines Acts become binding on the State.


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