Bush Chemist in the thick of it

Date: 20 January 2021

For the Bush Chemist in Tumut, NSW, 2020 threw up challenges which stretched its resources but also highlighted how committed everyone involved in the pharmacy was to ensuring the community it served continued to get access to medicines and services, regardless of the hardships involved.

The year started with the NSW bushfire crisis and Tumut was in the thick of it.

Despite heavy smoke and evacuations, the pharmacy continued to trade, and even stayed open extended hours for emergency after-hours calls, and for firefighters and volunteers to get their medications.

Chief Marketing Officer Emma Alchin said the pharmacy helped to support its local communities and those of Batlow and Tumbarumba through the fires.

“We also helped evacuees and the volunteer firefighters and a lot of the farmers in lots of different ways,” she said.

“Our Batlow and Tumbarumba pharmacies both closed because the towns were evacuated so we had to jump on board and try to help those people with all their medication and health needs.

“We traded on minimal staff as many of our staff were affected by the fires. On top of that our Pharmacist in Charge was deployed with the Army Reserve for five weeks.

“We also donated about $10,000 worth of medication and medical supplies to firefighters and volunteers.”

Pharmacist in Charge Luke Peacock said after returning from his army deployment due to bushfire emergency call-up: “I had this reset idea in my head that the fires were over, we can start afresh, start the year again and get back on track.

“But about two weeks later COVID-19 began and there was a little bit of panic

“We as a business started early and planning for the worst and that very rapidly came to fruition.

“Our immediate goal was how do we continue to provide that essential medication service to the community while at the same time keeping our staff safe.”

Ms Alchin said as soon as the lockdown was implemented, the pharmacy’s staff was divided into two teams.

“We did this to ensure we would always maintain our hours/services to our community, so that if one member of staff became ill, our other team could step in and continue to operate. These teams were rostered in a week-on, week-off system.

“When staff were on their ‘week off’ our owners continued to pay them at their full rate while they were isolating at home. This meant they were able to continue to meet their financial commitments and provide for their families.

“We also worked with our local GPs to collect scripts multiple times each day for those in isolation, so that we could dispense and deliver to them as soon as possible.”

Mr Peacock said the pharmacy also went to lengths to help the community in other ways.

“The Bush Chemist Tumut has a range of frozen healthy meals that are made in Wagga, and so we sent out menus with all of our deliveries so that people could order food along with their other products,” he  said.

“This was particularly important not only for those isolating, but others as well as there were major food shortages across our supermarkets.

“You couldn’t buy any food from the supermarkets and even here in Tumut it was almost impossible to buy meat, vegies and pasta.

“We thought there are people stuck at home, people isolating, people in lockdown, and our seniors patients who can’t go out and we wanted to make sure they had food so we thought let’s start delivering that with their scripts.

“A lot of our immunocompromised and elderly customers would order just the meals, without any medications, just because it was the most convenient method for them to have enough food to get them through.”

To help keep staff and patients’ sprits up, the pharmacy introduced a frock-up Friday, encouraging people to dress up for the day.

The themes varied and staff enjoyed the opportunity to dress up for the day when most other opportunities to “frock-up” were limited.

Contact: The Guild
Phone: 13GUILD

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Page last updated on: 15 June 2021