Plaudits rain down on pharmacy

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Plaudits rain down on pharmacy

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An outpouring of praise and gratitude from leaders across the health sector accompanies the crowning of the entire pharmacy profession as Pharmacist of the Year, writes Ruth Brown

Pharmacists, take a bow. Leaders of the pharmacy sector, and the wider health community, have lined up to applaud you, via the PSNZ annual awards.

As well as a separate nomination for Vicky Chan, Andi Shirtcliffe, chief advisor – pharmacy at the Ministry of Health and Te Whatu Ora, nominated the entire pharmacy profession as Pharmacist of the Year for 2021, and this nomination was supported by 11 other chiefs of the health sector. This is the first time such a nomination has been received.

Ashley Bloomfield, former directorgeneral of health; the Pharmacy Council; IMAC; and the schools of pharmacy are among those to endorse the nomination which was sent near the end of March this year.

And the praise is fulsome, in particular noting that pharmacy was the largest COVID-19 vaccination provider, at the same time staying open for business at the height of the pandemic, and keeping communities safe “with good humour and good grace”.These are the words of Ms Shirtcliffe who adds, “Every part of the profession has committed to the people of Aotearoa in ways, and to a degree, never observed before.”

Dr Bloomfield writes, “We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the incredible role pharmacists have played over the last two years as part of the nation’s response to the COVID19 pandemic.

“We recognise that many pharmacists have gone above and beyond to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and care for those impacted by it, as well as continuing to cater to the ongoing daily pharmaceutical needs of all New Zealanders.”

Nikki Turner, specialist GP and medical director of IMAC, wrote more than 600 words: “I could not single out any one pharmacist or pharmacy as there have been so many incredible stories from so many,” Professor Turner writes.

“I reflect now, in the middle of the COVID Omicron wave, that the current low rate of hospitalisation and death is directly a reflection of the high immunisation coverage across our population. The role of pharmacy in this needs to be celebrated,” she writes.

A letter signed by Pharmacy Council of New Zealand chair Arthur Bauld and chief executive Michael Pead, says, “Throughout all the lockdowns, it has been the pharmacy door that has remained open for patients.

“Pharmacists have continued to provide the full gamut of pharmacy services whilst also responding to the additional demands of the pandemic.

“At Council, we can note that although we have experienced a few more informal complaints and a few different and more complex complaint cases, it is reassuring that pharmacists, as a whole, have continued to go ‘beyond the call’ of duty,” they state.

Mariana Hudson, president of Ngā Kaitiaki o te Puna Rongoā (MPA), writes in some regions, pharmacy was the provider of choice for COVID vaccines for Māori and rural communities. “Providers also demonstrated that the importance of a trusted relationship translates into how you can achieve support for vulnerable communities.” Examples include mobilising services to remote communities, marae, residential-care facilities, places of worship and gang communities.

Altogether, 11 letters of support were received. As well as those mentioned above, they were sent by:

  • Tim Wood, from the former Waitematā DHB
  • Sian Dawson, president of the New Zealand Pharmacists Association
  • Alison van Wyk, group chief operating officer of Green Cross Health
  • Carlo Marra and Shane Scahill, heads of the schools of pharmacy at Otago and Auckland respectively
  • Martin Chadwick, chief allied health professions officer at the Ministry of Health
  • Samantha Murton, president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Andi Shirtcliffe

PSNZ president Professor Rhiannon Braund, who sits on the PSNZ committee which decides Pharmacist of the Year, says the comments from top health leaders about the importance of the pharmacy role in the COVID response are touching, and the recognition heartwarming.

“I know a lot of pharmacists have felt unsupported,” Professor Braund says. There were not a lot of “warm fuzzy moments” as initiatives to curb the impact of the pandemic were pushed through.

“Pharmacy felt unseen but their efforts were noted, even if it didn’t feel like it.”

As to how PSNZ plans to translate the award into something tangible for the country’s 4000-plus pharmacists, that is yet to be decided.

PSNZ would also like to showcase pharmacists’ achievement with a wider publicity campaign, but how this might be rolled out is still being worked through.

Who’s your hero?

The pharmacy sector is also right behind the push to recognise the efforts of the sector as a whole, if a short, online survey by Pharmacy Today is any indication.

We asked, “Who’s your hero of 2022?” Roughly a third of the 13 responses we received nominated all pharmacies and their staff.

“Every pharmacy technician and pharmacist who has managed to keep their composure and carry on, despite enormous pressure, difficult and abusive patients, staffing and resource shortages, stock issues and lack of support from Te Whatu Ora” deserves the honour, says one respondent.

The writer outlines why: “For keeping calm and carrying on. For example, the pharmacist I work with who was threatened with a pistol, drugs demanded with menace, handled the situation and carried on working after the person left, because the other patients were still needing their medicines.”

Another respondent names “Team Pharmacy” as their heroes: “Working [on the] front line in more and more challenging situations with more and more challenging customers, demands significantly more of these workers than before.

“Go front-line pharmacy staff! There are loads of grateful customers out there that appreciate your efforts.”

Yet individual pharmacists and pharmacy teams were also mentioned. Can the following please give yourselves another hug:

  • Chris Wilkinson, Patrick Chai and Kerryn Stokes – owners of Life Pharmacy Barrington
  • Vicky Chan
  • Mark Trevean
  • Gary and Joan Stewart
  • Brooke Mackay
  • Clive Cannons and his team
  • The team at Southmall Pharmacy: Nawaff Alkabban, Jenny Kim, Piseth To, Vivien Huang.


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