On Monday Minister Pablo Marin spoke with some of the media houses on the issue of the controversial postponement of the Pharmaceutical examination.
The exam originates from an examination Board at Ministry of Health but is conducted at the University of Belize.
It is considered important because, regardless of where a person trains; in Belize or abroad, the exam creates a level playing field.
It is an equalizer in a world where Universities produce various qualities of graduates. The Chemist and Druggist Act Chapter 311 of the Laws of Belize sections 6, through 12 mandate that only those who sit and successfully pass the examination can practice Pharmacology in Belize.
However, In the interview with the media Minister of Health, Pablo Marin, told the media the following:
“That exam that they take – it’s only like fifty percent of them that pass the exam. What I did ask from them is that they please revise the curriculum and for them to make it better, because if you have fifty percent of them failing, can you please check on that and then three years after, they didn’t do anything about it, so what I did I said you know what, stall this thing….”
Minister Marin stalled the examination from November of 2010 to January of 2012.
It was only because of major protests from the technical branch of MOH, the Pharmacists Association, and UB students and Faculty, that the exam was reinstated.
Then is spite of the agreement to proceed with the exam, Ministry of Health cancelled the July 2012 sitting! It was then that Lydia Harris-Thurton, M Sc., R. Ph, a Lecturer in the Pharmacy Program at UB, wrote the Board of Examiners saying, “I find the decision made … very disheartening. It speaks to the lack of importance placed on this area of health care. While the rest of the region and the world are working towards strengthening the role of Pharmacists in providing Primary Health Care and to ensure safe and effective pharmaceutical services…, we are headed toward unregulated, unsecured pharmacy practice to the detriment of our society.”
The Pharmacists Association of Belize claimed in a recent publication that the cancellations represented “repeated attempts by the Ministry of Health to remove or bypass systems and structures that are meant to establish standards and provide safeguards, directly jeopardizing the health of the nation”. They saw it as “making a mockery of our profession” and stated in a March 11th Press release that “In recent years we have had to lobby and fight to ensure that people who practice pharmacy in Belize are properly evaluated”.
What about the minister’s claims about 50% passes from the UB students? Well, as it relates to the passes garnered by the Institution on the board exam, it changes from year to year but in the most recent examination done in February of 2014, 8 of the 10 University of Belize students passed all three papers; that’s a proud 80% passing rate.
The 11th person, not a UB graduate failed the examination.
We understand that the University submitted their program review along with their Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as well as their proposed upgrades to the program. UB, it appears, intends to upgrade it’s Associate’s degree in pharmacy to a Bachelors degree.