An impassioned piece fron Vyra about the mistreatment of the Pharmaceutical Assistants

Vyra Hardy Nayar ·Warning! A personal, reminiscent and raging rant:

“Goin To Work Of A Monday…”

Imagine this, rolling into work of a Monday, the start of another week working in a profession you qualified in some 40 years ago. The boss calls you aside and tells you that you can no longer to do that job…… that there will be cuts to your hours, your salary or it could mean job gone. In fact, it could be that you cant work for more than an hour on your own…and in that hour, you’ve a long list of tasks that you are no longer qualified to carry out. You may need to get a loudhailer to announce to your “victims” I mean, customers, that you the “unclean” are on duty while the pharmacist takes a break. The boss explains it is not their doing; that it is a directive from the very authority who set up your training, examined you and awarded you the qualification!

You reel back in shock, refusing to believe that this could be possible in 21st century Ireland.
You think back over your years and remember the countless pharmacy students you’ve trained and acknowledged as they came back as your manager the following year.
All the scandals- older colleagues remember Thalidomide and the tragic consequences of its use as a morning sickness treatment. And now, its back as a treatment for cancer. In a world where we don’t tend to heed the mistakes of the past, another scandal in the 80s, Debendox, a morning sickness treatment that caused mayhem when it was discovered that doctors were skewing the safety status of the drug, by reporting back using deceased patients files.
The weird and wonderful drugs: Digoxin, Morphine, Rauwolfia alkaloid, Strychnine in tonics as a “bitter”, Ergotamine derivatives, lead lotion for sports injuries and aspirin for children; making up a paediatric dose in powder form for a child with a leg tumour, because the anticancer drug in question was only available as an adult dose tablet.
The health and dietary trends over the years- eggs are good for you, bad for you and good for you again.
You remember making up the coal tar, salicylic acid and sulphur ointments for a local horse stud; “red cow and yellow cow” treatments for bovine mastitis, contraceptive pills for pigs, DDT and Malathion use as insecticides….and who could forget the Sarcoptic Mange mite terror of 80’s tv?!
And now some individuals, who weren’t even born when you qualified, tell you now that you are not qualified enough to continue working?!

You’ve seen the “miracle” cures with your own eyes-the guy who hobbled in on crutches with what turned out to be a forged opioid prescription; who took up his crutches and ran, once out of sight of the shop.

Maybe you’ve been unfortunate enough to have experienced a robbery; to have a youngfella “apologise” to you for his drug addictions, using this as justification, while he stands over you with a 14 inch screwdriver and demands the drugs from the shop safe.

You remember the customer who roared at you for not dispensing an out-of-date prescription, only to return months later, to thank you because it was cancer and it wouldn’t have been discovered only you insisted the customer revert to their GP.

You’ve celebrated the events of your customers’ lives with them; supported them through serious illness: wept with them and hugged them as they struggled with their loss.

You shake yourself back into the present and ask Why? What has my profession done to warrant this?

Major health n safety issues? NO!
The authority will tell you that there is no provisions for recording incidents involving our qualification. But the truth is…THERES NOTHING TO REPORT.
You find out that there are only 321 of you left on the register, all over 55 years of age; mainly part time, working an average 18 years in the same job: the overwhelming majority are WOMEN.

You discover that there is a precedent……when druggists were brought into the pharmacy fold. But that was the 50’s and they were male?!
You discover that this shit has been going on for 8 years; how could you not have known? Simples! Such is the culture of fear in pharmacy and especially in your profession, that everyone just “keeps their heads down and their noses clean”, to avoid unwanted attention from the powers that be. In fact, I discovered in my research that this was the advice given to my professions some years ago!
You discover that other voices from that same authority have called you and your colleagues unqualified; that the Dail are told we are “a class of persons”……eh kinda qualified?! As one bright young pharmacist remarked: “you’re either competent or incompetent, there’s no half measures here!”
You discover that some of these voices have no qualifications in pharmacy whatsoever; who would not know an allergic reaction from a drug interaction!

Your representatives have been fighting for years to get proper recognition of your qualification on the National framework of qualifications. But that’s reliant on the same authority submitting the request; who delay and delay.
An external authority is asked to review your qualification and the result is that youre told that its equivalent to the Leaving Cert; ridiculous because you needed your Leaving Cert or Matriculation to be accepted for training, in the first place! Its blatantly clear that the external examiner has not been given all the necessary information….as they allude to in their disclaimer. And there is a handful of our lecturers, who would be incensed to know that their subject was discounted from the analysis, as it is now deemed irrelevant!

The community of pharmacy professionals are united in their support for you.

The Irish Pharmacy Union and your own representative body have offered significant proposals that would allow you to finish out your working life (many don’t have pension provisions btw, whilst allaying the potential and hypothetical health and safety “risks”.

Three public consultations later (at what cost?) over two years, all in support of us and yet last week, these results are blindly ignored and the authority arrogantly proceed with this attack on our rights.

It is so sad. To see young pharmacists caught between the “rock” of their own liability and the “hard place” of the never ending regulations that do nothing but obstruct the whole point of the exercise, tending to the needs of the patient.
To see these young professionals denied the support of older, experienced staff; what could be a “dream team”- the newly qualified with the latest knowledge, combined with the wisdom of older staff, gleaned from years of experience, working with patients. Is it any wonder that so many locums are now studying in other fields?

To see a regulatory authority who doesn’t recognise that there are three professions in pharmacy; pharmacist, pharmaceutical assistant and technician.
To see that this authority seems unaware of just how out of step it is with its counterparts in the UK and Europe.
“Closed shops” may be illegal but it takes a long time for the mentality to be flushed out…

So I say to my colleagues…STAND UP AND SPEAK UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!
And to those who know us and our work, customers, family and friends, fellow professionals….
STAND WITH US against this injustice.