Getting quality medicines to the people of Africa

1 August 2014

The Imperial Health Sciences Supply Chain Academy is one of Africa’s leading providers of training and development for people working in the public health supply chain.

Desperate need for supply chain skills

The academy was founded to address the desperate need for supply chain skills in Africa’s public health environment, especially in warehousing best practice.

Weak links in this supply chain can have dire consequences, including restricting access to drugs needed to prevent and treat AIDS, malaria, TB and other deadly diseases. Dr Iain Barton, managing director of Imperial Health Sciences, elaborates: Qualified pharmacists and warehouse employees often do not understand basic supply chain strategy and methodologies. Historically, poor pharmaceutical warehouse management, including cold chain management, has resulted in medicinal product and vaccine decay and subsequent inefficiencies and loss of product. As a result, much needed medicines and vaccines do not reach patients in time, leading to poor health services and unnecessarily high death rates.”

In-depth understanding of warehouse operations and best practice

In 2006, the Imperial Health Sciences Supply Chain Academy introduced its first education offering, the Warehouse Management Operations course, for warehouse managers and supply chain management practitioners in governmental, public and private sector organisations in African countries.

“The course is internationally recognised and designed to equip delegates with an in-depth understanding of warehouse operations and best practice, promoting a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach in line with warehousing trends,” Barton explains. “The course material covers elements of warehousing  from operations and procurement to distribution and other key components of managing the health supply chain system.”

Playing a critical role in the public health sector

Today the Imperial Health Sciences Supply Chain Academy offers programmes from basic to post graduate level, and plays a critical role in the development of individuals working at all levels of the public health sector, helping them to perform their roles more efficiently and also to understand how their functions fit into the public health supply chain and influence its performance.

In addition to the Warehouse Operations Management Programme, two further basic level courses are now offered, the Supply Chain Performance Improvement Programme and the Executive Change Management Programme.

Based on ISO accredited best practice, the Supply Chain Performance Improvement Programme aims to enhance the performance of public health supply chains. A specific objective of the programme is to outline a systematic approach to achieving regulatory compliance on which to build operational efficiencies.

The Executive Change Management Course assists managers with the often complex and challenging process of implementing and managing change.

Acquiring management skills

The Supply Chain Academy’s certificate level qualification – the Certificate in Health Supply Chain and Logistics – aims to equip graduates with the skills needed to follow a path into management positions in an organisation. Candidates are provided with the basic concepts of managing innovation, technology, people and systems within a healthcare supply chain environment.

The certificate level programme has been development by the Imperial Health Sciences Supply Chain Academy in conjunction with the Da Vinci Institute, a renowned Johannesburg-based private university established in 1992 to create managers with the competence to lead their organisations.

Degree and post graduate qualifications

Degree and post graduate qualifications are also offered by the Imperial Health Sciences Supply Chain Academy. The Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management has been customised for supply chain employees.Developed by the Da Vinci Institute in conjunction with CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply), it aims to develop managers who understand the importance of socio-economic transformation within a supply chain environment, Barton explains.

The academy’s Masters Diploma in Supply Chain Management is aimed at managers with a B degree or similar qualification. “This programme is designed to accelerate the development of managers by giving them a thorough overview of the strategic aspects of business and the way each function interlinks,” he notes, adding that the qualification is offered by the Imperial Health Sciences Supply Chain Academy in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch Business School, with whom it is accredited. “It meets the requirements of a short learning programme in terms of the University Short Course Policy.”

Delivering real business benefits

From 2007 to 2013, more than 200 delegates from all over Africa and Asia attended the Warehouse Operations Management courses run in South Africa by the Imperial Health Sciences Supply Chain Academy. Feedback from graduates has revealed that after completing the programme, they were able to make tangible, sustainable and measurable improvements within their organisations. One graduate reported: In my country, we developed standards of organisation and operation for pharmacies in public health facilities. We assessed the level of compliance with standards in 54 pharmacies, and then made ​​recommendations and developed a project upgrade plan for the pharmacies – in terms of equipment, infrastructure, training human resources and activities within the pharmacy.

Another graduate revealed that he had successfully implemented “regular spot-checks of key products, close follow up of products at risk to expire, good filing of documents and filing relating to physical inventory” following the course.

The introduction of key performance indicators, improvements in distribution and scheduling and enhanced quality management programmes were also among the improvements that graduates reported having made once they returned to their home countries armed with an enhanced understanding of warehouse operations and best practices.

Imperial Health Sciences’ goal is to ensure the secure and sustainable supply of quality medicines to the people of Africa. Training offered by the Supply Chain Academy is playing a crucial role in helping us to achieve this goal, by enabling graduates to improve the performance of the public health supply chain and serving as a catalyst for change within the industry,” Barton concludes.

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