Monday, 8 August 2016
Pacific Islands Health Professional Students’ Association (PIHPSA) invited Dr Ruth Ferguson to their Friday lunch session (23rd July, 2016) to speak about her recent visit to the Cook Islands. The meeting commenced with a customary prayer before serving lunch, first to staff, then to the women, followed by the men.
Following a recent interview with Dr Ferguson a few months ago for the School of Pharmacy newsletter about her work in the Islands, this presented a great opportunity to hear about her recent visit to the Cook Islands (28 June – 16 July, 2016). Dr Ferguson acts as a pharmacy consultant to the Ministry of Health, Cook Islands and has been visiting the Cook Islands on a voluntary basis since 2013 to help regulate pharmacy practices. An on-going problem, common to many developing countries and island states is maintaining a continuous and adequate supply of medicines; this is a major challenge.
An audit of the pharmacy warehouse has identified that understocking and overstocking of essential medicines is a significant issue for the Cook Islands. This has led Dr Ferguson to revise the Cook Islands Essential Medicines List using the WHO list as a starting point. Project work undertaken by forth year pharmacy students in 2015 identified medicines use in the Cook Islands as well as consulting with senior medical staff. A full review with recommendations of medicines supply and distribution systems within the Ministry of Health was completed and presented during the July 2016 visit.
Dr Ferguson advises on accessibility to medicines. Together with a local community pharmacist, she has established a list of medicines that can be sold through non-pharmacy outlets like the small dairies and supermarkets both on Rarotonga and the outer islands. She also regularly consults pharmacies around the medicines they can display and sell.
Dr Ferguson is concerned about maintaining trained health professional staff in island nations like the Cook Islands when more attractive salary packages are offered in other countries. She encourages all health professional students and especially pharmacy students present at the PIHPSA lunch, to return to the Islands to help with their home situation. Third year student and PIHPSA Pharmacy representative, Tauwi Tiere, plans to return to the Cook Islands once she graduates after completing her internship.