Two of the 906 graduates of the Medi Training Academy Pharmacist’s Assistant course are Florah Mashegoana and Callington Chakoma. PHOTO: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - More than 900 students have qualified as pharmacist’s assistants and an additional 172 are currently enrolled on a training initiative that aims to address a shortage of skills in South African healthcare.

The Medi Training Academy, launched in 2009, is an independent training and development facility operated by Medipost Holdings, which aims to give pharmacist's assistants working under pharmacists’ supervision the skills to dispense prescriptions, prepare medicines as well as advise customers and answer their questions.

“As the largest courier pharmacy service registered with the South African Pharmacy Council, Medipost Pharmacy identified a critical need for pharmacist's assistants more than a decade ago,” Medipost acting CEO Louis Scheepers said.

“With the shortage of trained pharmacist's assistants facing South Africa’s healthcare industry, we saw an opportunity to develop our existing staff members and upskill them to fill this niche."

Beneficiaries of the programme include Florah Mashegoana, who started working for the company as a packer in 2004 but is now a manager in the inbound clinical pharmacy cluster for one of Medipost’s largest medical scheme clients after successfully completing her studies in 2012.

Another graduate is Callington Chakoma who joined Medipost Pharmacy as a packer in 2008 and was in 2010 selected  to participate in the learner basic course, the first step to becoming a pharmacist’s assistant.

The success of the programme has attracted external interest, Scheepers said.

“Currently the Academy is geared to service Medipost’s needs only, however in time we hope to make the Academy accessible to the general public and offer training for candidates from other organisations," he said.

Over the last two years, Medipost has funded external bursaries for four full-time pharmacist students and 10 internal bursaries to its employees.

The Medipost Group currently employs 1,733 people, including 459 qualified pharmacists and pharmacist’s assistants holding basic, post-Basic and learners’ qualifications. 

Its courier pharmacy division, Medipost Pharmacy, dispenses, dispatches and delivers chronic medication to beneficiaries of 82 medical schemes and other clients such as employer groups and the Department of Health.

Medipost partnered with the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund to train and permanently employ 112 unemployed people as learner basic pharmacist’s assistants, with an opportunity for further training.

- African News Agency (ANA)