Copper wire thieves cause havoc for chemist

Howard Springs Amcal Pharmacy. Courtesy Rebecca Race.

A pharmacy was left without phone and internet access for over a week after a copper wire theft

Thanks to a thief stealing copper wire, a rural Darwin pharmacy has experienced three communication blackouts over a four to five week period – one of which lasted over a week.

The Northern Territory News reports that about 10km of wire belonging to Telstra have been stolen since late last year.

The thefts left local businesses frustrated, says Rebecca Race, managing pharmacist at the Howard Springs Amcal Pharmacy.

“The first blackout only lasted a day,” Ms Race told the AJP. “We found that frustrating enough, because when Telstra goes down, we lose everything: we lost eftpos, phone, internet, fax, email, everything.

“Aside from running a business, this made it very hard for us to provide health care.

“With the internet down, we weren’t linked with Medicare and couldn’t scan scripts. Everything was coming back rejected, because it wasn’t going straight to Medicare. There were a lot of implications.”

A couple of weeks later, the lines went down again – and this time they stayed down for a week.

“It was horrible,” Ms Race says. “We think it went down on a Sunday, when we don’t open, and so we didn’t realise till the next morning that it was out. And we were down for a week.”

One of the pharmacy’s owner managed to set up a wireless dongle so that the pharmacy could at least offer its customers eftpos, and staff could intermittently access “very sketchy internet that was dropping in and out”. This took three days to implement, however.

“So we didn’t have a printer, we couldn’t get invoices from the network, and then we had to call them and get them to put us back on the network. That took another three days to fix, so all up we were out of action a week and a half,” Ms Race says.

“I had to use my mobile and set up email on that, so we at least had some form of communication.

“It affected our whole centre [the Howard Springs Shopping Centre],” she says. “It has a doctor’s surgery as well as us, an IGA, a newsagent and Post Office, but we and the doctors were especially affected.

“The doctors do online bookings, so a lot of people were not getting confirmations, so either they were not rocking up, or they were just rocking up without them.”

Despite the fact that locals are usually fairly pleasant, there were a lot of unhappy patients, Ms Race says.

“There was frustration when people couldn’t pay on eftpos or get through to us or the doctors, and some got quite angry, though it wasn’t our fault.”

Last week the lines again went down and the pharmacy was told to expect another week-long blackout, but fortunately communication was up and running again after two days.

A 50-year-old man was arrested in connection with the copper wire thefts.

Meanwhile, the pharmacy was left with a great deal of record-keeping to get on with.

“Because we couldn’t record anything, we had to photocopy licences and write everything down,” Ms Race says. “We had a lot of catch-up to do.”

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