Super pharmacists providing super care

Meet three alumni who are changing the face of community pharmacy.

Monash Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and its predecessor, VCP, have a long history of educating the future leaders of the pharmacy profession.

Around 30 per cent of Supercare Pharmacy visitors would have gone to hospital if the pharmacy or nursing service had not been available.

Here we profile three pharmacy alumni who have played key roles in piloting Victoria’s new Supercare Pharmacies, which are open 24 hours, seven days a week.

The program has been so successful that it will increase to 20 Supercare Pharmacies, from an initial pilot group of five.

According to the Victorian Government: “… since July 2016, there have been more than 81,000 visits to Supercare Pharmacies between 10pm and 7am. There have also been more than 5000 episodes of care provided by nursing staff. Around 30 per cent of Supercare Pharmacy visitors would have gone to hospital if the pharmacy or nursing service had not been available.”

Peter Fell managed a 24-hour store in Ballarat. He is now Pharmacy Clinical Advisor, Deputy Operations Manager of UFS Dispensaries, a not-for-profit, community-based organisation running 19 pharmacies, mainly throughout Western Victoria.

Peter said the new pharmacy far exceeded his expectations about the impact on consumer shopping habits.

“We were an extended-hour store anyway, but we saw a significant growth since our further extended shopping hours – it was substantially busier”.

“There are additional obligations of clinical compliance, KPIs to meet and statistical data recording. It’s challenging to manage, but it’s a nice problem to have and a good business model that suits the regional area.”

UFS is looking at additional programs for sleep apnoea and immunisation, along with ‘complementary’ medicine.

“We have very good staff and a good supply of over-the-counter products. This combination, with our longer hours, certainly increased our business”.

Now that Peter is in a different role and has a bird’s-eye view of the various UFS stores, he says “there is really no place for a cookie cutter approach in this industry if you aspire to provide excellent health care and service to your community, as the demands and demographics of each store are different.”

Jane Mitchell is co-owner of Ascot Vale Supercare Pharmacy with Dimitra Tsucalas.

Jane’s grandfather owned a pharmacy, and she trained as a pharmacist at the Ascot Vale pharmacy, where she’s spent her entire career – she loved the pharmacy so much, she bought into the business.

The pharmacy has an after-hours nurse onsite from from 6pm to 10pm. Jane believes there’s a need for this service. “Sometimes these hours are the only times people can get here.”

The store aims to embrace medicine and pharmaceutical care, and also expand to support illness and disease prevention with a focus on a more personalised and preventative method of care. “We have a vision to make it more of a professional pharmacy service, employing pharmacists with unique specialised skills such as clinical pharmacy, wound care or diabetes education”.

“Opening 24 hours gives us more exposure and enables us to draw on a greater pool of talent, offering up to 12 professional services. We’re getting positive feedback and word-of-mouth recommendations coming in,” says Jane.

“The pharmacy industry faces many challenges in a dynamic industry – we can see how some of our alumni have adapted these changes into opportunities that benefit customers.”

Peter O'Connor, a pharmacist with a legal background, is the proprietor of Carnovale Supercare Pharmacy in Yarraville.

I’ve experienced thunderstorm asthma before, so I rushed out to get more ventolin inhalers. When I got back with boxes full, I got applause from customers queuing out into the street. It was a terribly busy time.

He understands the impact of events such as thunderstorm asthma can have on people as they are desperate to seek relief. “I’ve experienced thunderstorm asthma before, so I rushed out to get more ventolin inhalers. When I got back with boxes full, I got applause from customers queuing out into the street. It was a terribly busy time,” says Peter.

“Customers were receptive to the new-concept stores. They felt looked after in the western suburbs. They were keen to sign any supportive evaluation forms because they don’t want to lose this kind of service.”

Peter confirms there are more challenges to maintain the compliance and statistical data, but it definitely fits with the business model. “So many people do shift-work now, and it suits people’s shopping habits. Sometimes people have sick children at all sorts of hours. I’ve left work at 1am and seen the customer carpark full. Consumer shopping habits have definitely changed – and we’re obviously accommodating that demand,” Peter says.