Talk to me again in five years
How personal loss led Wesley Kukutu to one of the most powerful public health supply chain positions in the Solomon Islands
A supply chain management career in the Solomon Islands brings unique challenges. Just 700,000 people occupy hundreds of islands, all dependent on water traffic to connect, and all held to ransom by bad weather, unstable infrastructure, and poor communications. Braving the arduous logistic conditions, the country’s National Medical Store sends supplies to 16 provincial medical stores, which in turn must supply more than 300 rural health facilities.
LAPTOP Scholar Wesley Kukutu is one of only 18 public-sector pharmacists in the Solomon Islands. In October, he will complete a year-long course, a Postgraduate Diploma in Global Health Procurement and Supply Chain Management with Empower School of Health, supported by a scholarship from the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC).
This course of study is the latest milestone in Wesley’s driven five-year quest to make a difference in his country’s public health systems, in which rural health facilities struggle to access reliable supply chain information from incompetent software.
“The only medication I could find was out-of-date, and we were unable to procure more in time...”
In early 2016, Wesley’s older brother became sick. Solomon Islands doctors could not diagnose his condition conclusively and the best medical advice they could proffer was for him to follow a course of chemotherapy drugs to combat suspected non-Hodgkins lymphoma. At the time, as chance would have it, Wesley oversaw chemotherapy medication in his capacity as a government pharmacist. Not that it helped very much. “We did not have stock,” he remembers. “The only medication I could find was out-of-date, and we were unable to procure more in time.” His brother died before the end of 2016, leaving Wesley with a burning desire to make sure nobody else in his country would have to go through a similar ordeal.
“I wanted a course that included everything!”
Wesley remembers going into overdrive. “I joined IAPHL to find free online supply chain management courses that could help me help my country. I met international logisticians online and made connections. I went to New Zealand to study, convincing my superiors that this was justifiable in our staff development plan, but the course was more on International Freight and Logistics. I wanted a course that included everything”. And then, he found the postgraduate diploma at Empower, but was originally put off by its cost until the RHSC scholarship set him on his way. “This course has taught me, all the important concept for best pharmaceutical supply chain management practice, covering selection, procurement, distribution and use.”
He now manages the country’s “highest platform of public health supply chain influence”
Two months ago, Wesley’s dream of shaping his country’s supply chain history came true. He was appointed to the post of Manager of the National Medical Store in the Solomon Islands — “the highest platform of influence”, as he puts it, from which he will advocate for more pharmacists in supply chain management, and scrutinize budgets, expiry dates and delivery times, applying everything he has learned to date.
Wesley is “101% convinced” that his current course of studies played a huge part in his new appointment. He has a special request of the RHSC. “Please interview me again in five years’ time,” he says, “and I will tell you about a transformation in public health supply chain management in the Solomon Islands.”