Meet the Pharmacy of the Year

We take a closer look at the Southcity Pharmacy Wagga Wagga, which was named winner of the Excellence in Community Engagement Award, and winner of the overall Pharmacy of the Year Award

When Mr O’Reilly and Mr van der Rijt bought the pharmacy over three years ago, it operated with fewer staff and was run under a banner group name. The two set about to transform it into an independently branded pharmacy with a true professional services model.

To do so, they enlisted the help of their local health networks – and gave back an enormous amount.

Both proprietors are Clinical Council members of the local Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (PHN). This helped them identify two health needs in the community: diabetes and COPD.

“In a place like Wagga it has to be a collaboration,” Mr van der Rijt stresses. “And we work closely with our GPs and with our specialists to make sure our programs fit into their plans.”

He advised pharmacists who are keen to set up a professional program to go out and get in touch with local health providers.

“We had a great idea in conjunction with Novartis with a COPD screening plan, and we thought we’d better ask the specialists just to see if they’re okay with us and we’re not stepping on their toes or ruining any of their plans,” he says.

“Luckily [the specialists] thought it was a great plan, they didn’t have a screening program available and they thought it worked in with their plans.”

He says the Wagga local health network is a great example of collaboration between pharmacists and other health professionals.

”We’ve seen fantastic results can be achieved when you all work together,” he says.

Southcity Pharmacy also sponsors four local children to attend local charity Country Hope’s Time Out For Life week-long camp, and sponsors several local sporting teams and schools, as well as participates in a number of health-related workshops throughout the community.

Its team members are also facilitators of the PSA’s Bridging the Gap program, which is designed to improve health outcomes for patients transitioning between care settings.

Creating programs

The COPD program has resulted in a high referral rate for patients, Mr van der Rijt says.

“COPD is one of the largest preventable hospital admissions in the region, so in conjunction with the Novartis respiratory department we developed a program in our pharmacy to address this, which has been a huge success,” he says.

“A recent study of COPD screening in community pharmacy showed the average referral rate to GPs is about 39%. We have had a 50% referral rate which shows the extent of the problem in this region but also the high value of our program.

“It also means that we can identify problems earlier.”

The pharmacy also has a credentialed diabetes educator, who runs a diabetes service to the local area. The local diabetes office had closed in 2016, and Mr van der Rijt said that people felt “left with nowhere to go for help and advice”.

The store offers Donjoy specialist medical braces to support patients with both chronic pain and post-surgical pain; compounding services; and a collaboration with local specialists for treatment of sleep apnoea.

The pharmacy also has 11 staff members trained in Mental Health First Aid.

What’s next?

Luke van der Rijt says that in the past, the Southcity Pharmacy has enjoyed the benefits of having the Wagga Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University – and its pharmacy course – in town.

“Having the stream of pharmacists coming out of that university was a huge bonus to us. But now we’re going to have to actively recruit from the Orange and Canberra areas,” he says.

“So if there’s any pharmacists out there, young students looking for an internships or even some work experience, feel free to hit us up!”

In the meantime, Mr van der Rijt paid tribute to the pharmacy’s existing staff, saying they are key to the success of the business and its outreach into the community – and the business’s lifeblood.

“This award is their award,” he says.

“We’ve got a big team and provide great customer service which our customers love.”

Watch the Southcity Pharmacy Wagga Wagga’s finalist video at the Pharmacy Guild website here.

And see the moment when the award was announced below:

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