Ralph Azzopardi
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Ralph Azzopardi

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What is your name and what is your
designation within the Ministry for Health?​
My name is Ralph Azzopardi and I graduated as a Pharmacist from the University of Malta in 2005. I am currently employed as a Pharmacist at Mater Dei Hospital, the National general acute teaching hospital which makes part of the Acute Services branch of the Malta Ministry for Health.

Where do you work?
I work at the Quality Assurance Section of the Pharmacy Department at Mater Dei Hospital.

How long have you been working with the Public Service?
I am in my fourth year of work with the Public Service. 

Initially, when I started working at the Pharmacy  Department, ​I followed a training program which helped develop practical skills in various fields related to Hospital Pharmacy duties.​After the training program, I then started working at the Quality Assurance Section where I still hold my current position.​

Are there any specific qualifications required for your post?
The post of Pharmacist in the Public Service requires a warrant to practice Pharmacy in Malta. To obtain the warrant, Pharmacists follow a four-year Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Pharmaceutical Science course, followed by a three-semester Master of Pharmacy course. Upon completion of the two programmes, the Pharmacy graduates can apply for the post of Pharmacist with the Public Service. ​

What attracted you to take up your profession and to the health service
​I have been interested in sciences since early secondary school. Later, I started interesting myself in medicines. Prior to choosing the University course that I would follow, I discovered that the Pharmacist profession is very versatile, offered a multitude of opportunities and is highly rewarding. Therefore I decided to follow the University course leading to the Pharmacist profession. After graduating, I occupied a patient care orientated position for a few years. Following this ​​I wanted to expand my knowledge and pursue new challenges in a multidisciplinary setting so I applied for a post at Mater Dei Hospital Pharmacy with the Public Service.

What motivates you most?
​Graduating as a Pharmacist gives you many different opportunities and therefore one can choose what motivates most. In my case, I have various motivations, but the top reasons are being able to help other people by improving
their well-being and 
working in a team having a common goal and working to achieve it successfully.

What about the teamwork between different professions/roles involved in relation to patient care?
This is one of the best incentives during our work at Mater Dei Hospital since all hospital staff makes part of a big family. In my work, I had the opportunity to meet and work with highly knowledgeable and professional people who have one objective, to help vulnerable patients as best they can. Working with Mater Dei Hospital Pharmacy team is something that I have at heart. 

On a professional level the Pharmacy team has always helped me to expand my knowledge, gave me the best possible advice and made me feel at home.

On a personal level, colleagues have become friends, not only in the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Section where I work, 
but also in other sections of Pharmacy Department. 

On an institutional level, Mater Dei Hospital Pharmacists constantly work with Healthcare, 
and other, professionals to achieve common aims. Forming part of our public acute hospital in Malta, where I have experienced and shared the dedication of the staff, is very gratifying and gives an extra sense of security in everyday life.

Can you give us one challenge and one success story?
One of the hardest challenges is to maintain the quality of the services Mater Dei Hospital Pharmacy provides and to pursue improvement whilst remaining impartial and focusing mainly on quality standards. An example of such challenge is not to succumb to “quick fixes” which are often expected in institutions such as our general acute hospital.  In this scenario, to progress in the right direction, changes providing effective solutions have to be done in collaboration with the different stakeholders and in line with the quality standards required.

Following initial cases of COVID-19 in Malta, Mater Dei Hospital Pharmacy implemented measures to limit the spread
of the COVID-19 virus, 
whilst continuing to guarantee its services. A number of changes in work procedures had to be performed in compliance with the Quality System of the Pharmacy Department. Following these changes, Mater Dei Hospital Pharmacy managed to implement a system for medicine ward orders and for most of dispensing procedures to patients that does not require handling of hardcopy documents. Home delivery of medicines to vulnerable eligible patients was also managed through the Pharmacy Dispensary. Creation of wards and changes to existing ones at Mater Dei Hospital were complemented by services managed by Pharmacy like medical gas testing, delivery and organisation of medicines. Dermatology services were transferred from Sir Paul Boffa to Mater Dei Hospital including non-aseptic preparation and dispensing of dermatology medications from Pharmacy. Furthermore, Mater Dei Hospital Pharmacy had to find ways of delivering Pharmacy services to areas outside of the hospital that were considered as extensions to the hospital.

What advice would you give to young students considering taking up this profession?
My advice for students interested in pursuing Pharmacy is to go for it with passion. The Pharmacist profession is a rewarding career with many different benefits. Pharmacists working in healthcare, both in the community or in hospitals, have the opportunity to improve people’s life every day and this gives a sense of great satisfaction. But apart from Healthcare, Pharmacists can work in pharmaceutical industry, medical firms, undertake academic research and much more. I recommend interested students to go ahead and explore the different options. They will surely discover they can have a diverse future full of innovation as the world of Pharmacy continues to grow. Finally, I would tell them that although the professional life is very competitive there will always be the need for Pharmacists. Once in this world they should never give up, persevere and work hard to chase their dreams.

What are the benefits of working with the public service?
​The benefits are multiple. The public service has a number of work-life initiatives that strike a very good balance between the demands of work and personal life. I recommend those who want to know more to consult the Public Service Management Code available on https://publicservice.gov.mt

Definitely the opportunity to further one’s knowledge and continue to study while retaining work duties is a major asset. On a general view, it is also worth mentioning advantages which are common with large institutions, for example, the availability of a pool of workers contributes to ease the burden in times of leaves and in emergencies.

Terms of employment in the public service are already set up and clear. Employees have the advantage of being well informed about any benefits, allowances and work conditions they can expect.

Moreover, in the public service, making part of a multidisciplinary team, greatly widens opportunities to progress professionally, have a successful career and be rewarded with the desired job satisfaction.