Celebrating our pharmacy heroes

Date: 9 September 2020

Guild Pharmacy of the Year 2021 is moving from the traditional format to this year showcasing the community pharmacy network and all that community pharmacies have done and continue to do during the challenging times that have defined 2020.

Forefront will be regularly reporting on nominated pharmacies and in this edition Amcal Pharmacy at Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory and Illawong Discount Drug Store in NSW are featured.

From a small rural town near Darwin to suburban Sydney, community pharmacy heroes have been reacting to the demands of the COVID-19 crisis and adapting to ensure patient needs are met and services continue to be delivered.

At Humpty Doo, proprietor of the Amcal Pharmacy Steve Large said initially the Northern Territory had fared better than other States and Territories.

“We were lucky up here in the NT as we didn’t get the problems the big States had but we did tell any staff who were uncomfortable with the situation to take time off. But nobody did – they are that committed to what we do,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we took precautions and moved quickly to install sneeze guards. We also implemented other measures such as markings on the floor to help patients observe social distancing.”

Mr Large said in the early days of the pandemic the workload in the pharmacy was significantly higher than usual, with lots of panic buying and high volumes of scripts dispensed.

However, overall one of the biggest impacts has been on trade with a huge reduction in the number of travellers.

“We’ve had only a trickle of grey nomad traffic coming through which has reduced our business,” he said.

“But overall we probably have not experienced the big downturn some of the other pharmacies across the country may have felt.”

In suburban Sydney, Connie Arronis, Pharmacist Manager of Illawong Discount Drug Store, found the early days of the pandemic had a major impact.

“It’s been very challenging and demanding, particularly with the panic buying and hoarding,” she said.

“It was unbelievable to see the shelves stripped bare of essential, everyday items like pain killers and children’s analgesics, Ventolin, and hand sanitizers.

“We also faced some major stock shortages with prescription medicines for chronic health conditions like diabetes and blood pressure.

“I never expected at any time in my pharmacy career to see the shelves bare of those items. It’s still unbelievable that we experienced that.”

Ms Arronis said another challenge was the flu vaccine.

“This year has been our largest year on record and we have conducted almost 700 vaccinations in store.

“Normally we would conduct a walk-in service with no appointment being required. However, in May and June when the stock was unavailable or just trickling through with back orders, we developed a waiting list and an appointment roster, not only to ensure we would have sufficient time to serve the customers we needed to in terms of monitoring and observation periods, but also to ensure there were minimal numbers of patients in store to meet social distancing requirements.”

To help patients who had COVID-19 or were returning from overseas and isolating, the pharmacy introduced delivery services and also a pick-up service in the car park where the pharmacy is located.”

“2020 has been very hard and our team has felt immense pressure to keep themselves safe, the patients safe and our families safe – while trying to remain calm and reassure our patients.”

The stories of community pharmacy heroes are the focus of Guild Pharmacy of the Year 2021, which is highlighting how pharmacists and their staff go to amazing lengths to help patients and their communities.

To view Connie's story and for more details of Pharmacy of the Year 2020 click here. If you have a great community pharmacy story to share please contact the Guild at communications@guild.org.au.

Contact: The Guild
Phone: 13GUILD

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Page last updated on: 15 June 2021