Open all hours: inside a Supercare Pharmacy

Carnovale pharmacy

Extending a pharmacy’s opening hours to 24 hours a day takes a fair bit of work – and it’s had to happen quickly for Yarraville’s Carnovale Pharmacy.

Carnovale is one of five Supercare Pharmacies which will from next week be open 24 hours a day, under a $28.7 million Victorian Government plan which will see 20 Supacare Pharmacies open to the public by 2018.

It’s been a quick turnaround for Carnovale Pharmacy Peter O’Connor, who says he’s looking forward to seeing how the project pans out. He’s already had significant positive feedback, he told the AJP.

“The Government called for tenders in December last year, just before Christmas, and the response had to be in by mid-January,” he says. “Two weeks ago they decided on the successful tenders, and so we’ve had three weeks to get it up and running, so there’s been challenges from a rostering point of view!

“I really felt that this would be a good fit with my pharmacy, as my pharmacy is already well known as an extended hours pharmacy: we’re open 8am to 9pm weekdays and nine to nine every other day, and three or four hours on Christmas.”

Because of the nature of the tendering process, O’Connor had to wait until Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy announced which pharmacies had tendered successfully before he could advertise for more staff.

“But the interest has surprised me,” he says, saying that after only a few days on, his ad attracted 10 or 15 candidates, most of whom were of excellent quality.

“I made a commitment as part of the tender to employ only experienced pharmacists, with five years or more experience,” he adds.

He says he expects the 24-hour format to be successful, and has already been in touch with emergency services, letting nurses and other staff know that the pharmacy’s doors will be open all day and night.

“I have staff working for me who also work part time at other pharmacies which are open a little later than we used to be, and those staff find that at those businesses, from nine till 11 or 12 at night are the busiest time,” O’Connor says.

“Everyone else is shut! So I think that our business should pick up till at least those hours, and we would also expect a bit of emergency department work. I’ve been working the phones hard letting the nurses know we’ll be open.

“Night-time is definitely our end of the business: our busiest times at Carnovale as it’s been are from around 4.30 to 8.30 or quarter to nine at night. Sometimes it’s like we’re almost forcing people out the door at just before nine.

“And it’s mostly young families: they’d be about two-thirds of the people we see, and the later it gets, they’re there in higher proportions.”

O’Connor is also putting the finishing touches on higher security measures, which will include staff and electronic equipment.

Also set to go 24 hours shortly are the Ascot Vale Pharmacy, Amcal Pharmacy Craigieburn, Pharmacy@Knox in Wantirna South and UFS Dispensaries in Ballarat.

In terms of the success of the program, O’Connor says, “I think it’ll be a matter of ‘watch this space’.

“We’ll see what the interest is, what the takeup is, how much work is generated by this initiative during the overnight hours.

“And it may well be that the demand justifies expansion of the initiative, or introduction into other states.”


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