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Mission to improve medical supplies in Papua New Guinea

News story

Shortages of lifesaving medicine have long been a problem in Papua New Guinea. Now, Curtin alumnus James Kara has found a way to ensure medication is available when patients need it most.

Working as a hospital pharmacist in Papua New Guinea (PNG), James Kara wanted to do more to improve the services he was offering to his patients.

After graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Pharmacy from Curtin, he worked in Alotau Provincial Hospital in PNG overseeing the logistics, supply and distribution of medical supplies to Milne Bay. He noticed there were often shortages of lifesaving medicines in the province, which has a population of 300,000 across 160 remote islands.

Patients with serious but treatable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis were not always able to access the medication they needed. Concerned by the consequences, Kara used his newfound skills to kick off several projects to address the shortages.

He implemented a one province, one ordering system project, established a provincial medical supply task force, set up a database system at the hospital for pharmacy stock management and trained pharmacy assistants for rural remote health facilities. To date, he’s trained 20 intern pharmacists and 12 pharmacy assistants who are now working in public and private health sectors in PNG.

He also formed the Medicine and Therapeutic Committee for Milne Bay Health Authority. The committee brings together specialist medical officers, administrators and managers of different sections of the hospital to discuss issues concerning pharmaceutical services in the province.

His efforts to improve healthcare in the community have been recognised by the PNG National Department of Health, Milne Bay Provincial Health Authority, and even the Australian Government, who partnered with the Milne Bay Provincial Government and built a provincial medical transit store in Alotau town.

But this is just the beginning for Kara, who has bigger plans for improving PNG health systems. He’s recently been accepted into Curtin to continue his studies with a Master of Supply Chain Management – a degree he feels will be important to his mission.

“My goal is to make lifesaving drugs available in a timely manner, so people don’t die of preventable diseases.” Says Kara. “In order for me to achieve this goal, I need innovative education and training to improve my supply chain management skills.”

He is now seeking a scholarship for his master degree, which will commence in July 2020. While he’s enjoyed working with his friendly team and supportive senior management at the hospital, he looks forward to this new chapter of study, knowing he’s on the right path to continue improving medical supply chains in PNG.