Adele Tahan bought her pharmacy just a few years after graduating university, but 16 years later it’s grown to become a go-to health hub in the Rozelle community
Cosily nestled on the shopping strip of Rozelle’s busy Darling Street, Adore Compounding Pharmacy is a calm oasis in the midst of Inner West Sydney.
The pharmacy has two consultation rooms right up front as you enter, which were built mid-last year to help staff run the Health Advice Plus programs.
“At the moment we have DAAs, glucose monitoring, cholesterol monitoring, blood pressure monitoring on an ongoing basis, and sometimes we have health checks for local businesses,” explains Seraphina Kwak, the pharmacist in charge of running professional services.
“We also do MedsChecks, Diabetes MedsChecks, clinical interventions,” says Ms Kwak.
All of the pharmacy staff are trained in conducting blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol testing.
“Most of them are up to certificate 3, although of course the vaccinations have to be done by an accredited pharmacist,” says proprietor Adele Tahan.
The consultation rooms also include seating, a bed, and a baby weighing station that’s used as part of the baby clinic.
Women are also free to come into the pharmacy and use one of the rooms to breastfeed at any time.
“We’re part of the community. Women can come in to breastfeed whenever they like. We’re also women here too so we understand,” says Ms Tahan.
With the new consultation rooms allowing more services to be rolled out, Ms Tahan says the pharmacy has expanded a lot over time.
“We’ve just renovated it, I designed it all myself.
“It was my vision to take over the whole site.”
In fact, it had been her vision since childhood to become a pharmacy proprietor.
“I was sitting with my parents and at seven years old decided I wanted to own a pharmacy.
“No one else owned a pharmacy in my family but they’re pretty much all business owners and self employed.”
Ms Tahan had bought the Rozelle pharmacy a few years after graduating from her degree in pharmacy.
“This is my 16th year here. I graduated from the University of Sydney in 1997, bought my first pharmacy in Campbelltown in 2000 for my brother, then bought this one in 2003.”
Ms Tahan says she wanted to create a business that didn’t have to rely on the government and government funding.
“We thought: we have to differentiate or die. We did the change before we had to do the change. So my compounding lab, I designed it in 2004 – 14 years ago. It’s always been my vision. So designed it, and then a few years later we started building.”
Building the pharmacy did not come without its challenges.
The GFC hit hard and, at the same time, the government decided to try and take over the site to use it for Sydney’s proposed CBD metro.
“We held a rally against the government. We went and we lobbied all the ministers, and we had the whole community behind us. We got everybody in this area to come support us—that’s why we are very much community oriented and based. And then we managed to get them to cancel it.
“We finished the building, came back here, did the branding, did the marketing.
“It was our vision, our persistence that allowed us to remain here.”
“It was all about the one-on-one interaction and giving amazing customer service and being very knowledgeable.
“All of our customers are regulars – I’d say 95% of them. We know their names, their families, and they know us. A discounter opened up down the road but people still come here because they know we care and we’re a health destination.”
Ms Tahan says it’s important not to give up despite challenges in the current pharmacy climate.
“There are lot of challenges right now but we’re not going to grow if we don’t have challenges. We only grow when we have challenges and we overcome them every day.
“I think it’s important that we tackle one problem at a time. If you go on social media, there’s so much negativity around pharmacy. If you focus on negativity you’re going to end up with negativity.
“We’ve had a major discounter open up [nearby].
“People went and tried it … if you go in no-one will approach you.
“You come here, everyone knows who you are, we know your whole family, we know your history. Where would you want to go, especially if you have a few medical conditions?
“You can go [to the discounter] for your vitamins or your special on fragrances or toys, that’s fine, it’s a retail store, no problem with that. But if you want specific individualised customised service, that’s what we give you.”
And with recent criticisms of pharmacy health checks and services by the RACGP and AMA, what is their relationship with the local GPs like?
“We actually have a very good relationship with the GPs in the area, they love to see us,” says Ms Tahan.
“We work as part of the multidisciplinary health system. So it’s not like we’re isolated, we’re actually part of the system.
“We just need more recognition, we need the government to realise they can actually send us more work and we’ll reduce the pressure on GPs, reducing the cost. Because we have been saving [the government] so much money over the past 10-15 years.
“So they can use us more! But pay us properly. Pay us in line with what you pay your hospital pharmacists, that’s what we want, even more.
“We’re not money-driven, we’re health-focused, but we still have a business to run, there are construction costs, there are labour costs, there are IT costs.”
Ms Kwak believes pharmacists have a valuable role to play in medication management, as well as providing education to patients as well as doctors, nurses and any other healthcare professionals.
“I think pharmacy is the bridge between patient and other healthcare professionals. Because we are often available Monday to Sunday whereas doctors are only available with appointment. And because they have limited time, they cannot cover all [of the patient’s] health issues.
“A patient can come into the pharmacy and show their concerns, and we are here to help them or refer them to the right doctor to benefit their health.”