Date: 17 March 2021
Addressing the shortages of essential supplies caused by the bushfires and COVID-19 was a challenge the pharmacists and staff at Cincotta Discount Pharmacy in Wagga Wagga, NSW, were committed to meet and overcome.
Wagga Wagga has a population of some 57,000 people and, like its neighbouring towns, was severely affected by the fires late in 2019 and early 2020.
Proprietor of Cincotta Discount Chemist Mustafa Al Shakarji said the fires quickly started causing shortages in supplies at the pharmacy and other businesses in the area.
“The supplies could not get through,” he said.
“When the pharmacy began experiencing supply issues, we acted quickly and placed a large order for essential products to ensure we had stock for our patients.
“Because we acted quickly this enabled us to then donate a large quantity of supplies to both people affected by fires as well as to the local Rural Fire Service.
“We were able to give the fire service N95 masks designed for the bushfire season and these were invaluable in helping them in their work. Also, during the fire season, N95 masks were donated to locals.”
No sooner had the bushfire crisis passed than the pandemic hit.
“When COVID-19 struck we at the pharmacy – like the rest of the community – faced a lot of challenges,” he said.
“Unfortunately, essential products like hand sanitisers went out of stock quickly as suppliers ran out.
“It wasn’t just us. Other pharmacies and businesses also couldn’t get supplies.
“We decided to do something about it and the first thing we did was to try to source hand sanitiser from other suppliers.
“This proved to be very difficult as it was hard to get at the time and the price was high.
“We recognised that, as a large compounding pharmacy, we could do something about this situation.”
Mr Al Shakarji said the pharmacy obtained all the raw materials needed, such as ethanol, and started making hand sanitisers to support demand.
“This was very successful and while we were meeting our patients’ demands we became aware that the medical centres surrounding us were under a lot of pressure and were needing supplies,” he said.
“There are 15 medical centres near our pharmacy and two large hospitals – the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital and Calvary Hospital.
“They were all having issues in terms of sourcing hand sanitisers and keeping their patients and staff safe, so we decided as a pharmacy to try to help them as much as possible.
“We donated face masks and sanitisers to medical centres and the two hospitals to support our doctors and nurses.
“We ended up compounding hand sanitisers specifically for all medical centres around us and for both hospitals.”
Mr Al Shakarji went a step further and went above and beyond by driving to each medical centre and hospital to refill all empty sanitiser bottles.
“Tough times bring out the best in us,” he said.
“When we went through the hardships we have been through, we found you start knowing people around you and trusting them.
“This is what has happened with us here in Wagga; our knowledge of the local community and the two-way trust has increased dramatically.
“We are closer to each other than ever before.
“We are all more caring about things that happen in our local community.”
Contact: The Guild