State of emergency

Pharmacists caught in the midst of devastating NSW bushfires, but still serving their communities

Several pharmacies, and their staff, have been heavily impacted by the devastating bushfires sweeping across large areas of the state. 

To-date most reports of pharmacies that have been caught up in the disaster have come from the state’s mid-North Coast, according to NSW Pharmacy Guild president David Heffernan.

Tim Wright, owner of Nabiac Pharmacy, in the small Pacific Highway town of Nabiac, south of Taree, said he and his community have been right in the front line of a fire situation for around three weeks.

The ongoing fire in the area started about 5km north of the township of 2500, and while a wind change sent it away from the township itself, many patients and some staff were still impacted.

“Our catchment area covers people around 12km away and further, and many have been cut off, or had their houses damaged or destroyed. Our pharmacy manager was fortunate to have their house still standing, despite being in a street which was impacted, and heavily featured on Facebook and news articles.”

“We’re facing a looming power outage, which i’ve been advised could last for a number of days, so i’ve been clearing the fridge and having patients collect their insulin and biologics, where possible,” Mr Wright said. “We’re in an area that does suffer a lot of power outages, so many residents have generators. I’ve been trying to buy one for the pharmacy this week, but they’re out of stock.”

Mr Wright said he’s prepared to be cut off in the town to keep the pharmacy open. He said road closures between his house and the township means he has to make a 100km detour to get home, a journey he’s already had to undertake twice in the last fortnight.

And to further his ongoing community support, despite the ongoing crisis, Mr Wright and his team, and their wholesale supplier Symbion (who he congratulated for getting supplies through quickly when requested), donated 70 sachets of rehydration solution to the rural fire service officers in the area. 

Mr Wright and Mr Heffernan both mentioned pharmacist Akesh Mehta, owner of Old Bar Pharmacy, just north of Nabiac. Mr Mehta, his wife and baby child faced emergency evacuation late last week, and he returned yesterday under SES escort to re-open the pharmacy. Mr Wright, whose mother-in-law lives in Old Bar, said phone services to the town, both mobile and landline, have been intermittent. (AJP attempted to contact Mr Mehta, but without success to date

In addition to a number of cases where pharmacists and staff have lost homes or property in areas around Taree and Port Macquarie, many were also dealing with smoke and asthma-related health issues to themselves and to many patients.

Mr Heffernan said the Guild wanted to remind pharmacists to contact the state branch if they wanted assistance or support, and they will “do what they can, in any way they can” to help. 

Pharmacists who are distressed can contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910 every day of the year between 8.00am and 11.00pm AEDT. The PSS has urged pharmacists to get in touch if they are affected and need to talk.

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