Wits 4th year pharmacy students now have less spending money and more free time on their hands as Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital has cut down student staff hours.

In the past the hospital’s pharmacy department has hired 4th year students to work and gain experience to alleviate the long queues and wait that patients have to endure. That is about to change because of budget cuts and the hiring of senior pharmacists.

A 4th year pharmacy student who has worked in the pharmacy since last year and did not want to be name , says hospital management are trying to solve the queuing problem by hiring more experienced staff.

“Students work gets double checked and that might reduce displacement time.”

He feels they should hire more students as staff instead of cutting down on student hours and replacing them with “more experienced” pharmacists.

“That way they’d pick up the pace” and students would gain experience in a learning environment.

Students are upset about the cut in hours as it means they won’t get the much-needed practical experience and some rely on the money that they earn.

National Students Pharmacy Council president Hilton Stevens, who worked at the hospital’s pharmacy, says the system has changed and seems to “have gotten worse even though management tries to meet the workload”.

He feels there was a communication breakdown between doctors and pharmacists which added to the pharmacist’s problem of sometimes needing to explain to patients about discontinued medication that had been prescribed.

“Queues are inevitable and displacement of medication takes time as the pharmacist needs to make sure the patient understands how to take the medication,” Stevens says.

The high workload and pressures they work under sometimes results in pharmacists and patients tempers flaring.

Patients like Botha Hermien from Midrand wait outside the pharmacy doors from 4.30am to avoid waiting in queues. Some patients complain about receiving rude service and being shouted at when they ask questions.

The hospital’s chief pharmacist would not comment and the public relations officer could not be reached for comment before Vuvuzela went to print.