Tassie pharmacists gather for state conference

Duncan McKenzie.

A leader of COVID-19 hospital strategy in the state has been named 2021 Tasmanian Pharmacist of the Year

Duncan McKenzie, Pharmacy Manager at Royal Hobart Hospital, was named 2021 Tasmanian Pharmacist of the Year at the Tasmanian Pharmacy Conference held over the weekend.

Mr McKenzie was recognised for his “initiative, generosity and experience” in working to prepare the state’s hospital system for increased COVID-19 hospitalisations.

Further achievements highlighted from over his 16-year career included implementing a formal approach to medicines reconciliation to Tasmania and launching an antimicrobial stewardship program which became the template for other hospitals nationally.

“Duncan’s work highlights that the behind the scenes work is vitally important to saving lives”, said Pharmacy Guild Tasmanian Branch President Helen O’Byrne.

At the awards ceremony on Saturday, Mr McKenzie said: “There’s probably only one thing better as a professional to receive an award that’s been nominated and judged by your peers, and that is being in the room with them together in person and it’s a very rare gift that we live in a part of the world where we’re able to do this.

“Pharmacy in the hospital, pharmacy in the community, has an enormous part to play in the rollout of [the COVID-19] vaccine. We’re not just part of this process, we should be leading this process.”

Ms O’Byrne added that “fittingly the following day conference delegates were treated to an impromptu presentation by Mr McKenzie explaining his role in medication supply and management for COVID-19 treatment, plus the exciting work in preparation for the imminent Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination roll out as part of Phase 1a and 1b.” 

Over 100 pharmacists attended the conference in held at the Crowne Plaza in Hobart from 20-21 February 2021.

The line-up of speakers, panellists and moderators included economist Saul Eslake, Head of Infectious Diseases at the Launceston General Hospital Professor Katie Flanagan, Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine, Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch, Secretary of Department of Health Ms Kathrine Morgan-Wicks and former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett.

Ms O’Byrne said that she was delighted that, with careful planning, it was possible to hold the conference face to face after what has been a challenging 12 months for the profession.

“Our first conference last year was held just weeks before the full force of COVID-19 hit the world. This time round we had to make sure we planned everything carefully to ensure a COVIDSafe event.”

While the border closure to Victoria until midnight the day before the conference meant some interstate delegates – including Guild officials – were unable to attend, Ms O’Byrne said the event has always been aimed firmly at the Tasmanian Pharmacy community and the majority of delegates and speakers were locals.

“In our current COVID-19 world there is always a risk that border closures will happen suddenly – so in organising an event such as our conference you plan accordingly,” Ms O’Byrne said.

“We are incredibly fortunate that we have many internationally renowned experts in their field who also happen to live and work in Tasmania.

“After a difficult and challenging 12 months, during which our wonderful community pharmacies kept their doors open to support their local communities, it was great to be able to come together to reflect, recharge and prepare to play our part in ensuring the health and safety of Tasmanians in the coming year.”

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