The bushfire season of 2019-20 was the most sustained and confronting in our history, with fires threatening communities in multiple States across unprecedented areas of land, taking lives and destroying property.


This prolonged emergency put stress on every aspect of our communities, and local pharmacies were no exception. In numerous Australian towns, community pharmacists were faced with distressed patients, power failures, broken medicine supply lines, fuel shortages, acrid smoke, appalling air quality – not to mention pharmacies and the homes of staff under direct threat from the relentless flames.


The pharmacy profession can be rightly proud of the efforts of pharmacists on the frontline during the crisis. At the 2020 Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference & Trade Exhibition (APP2020) two pharmacists from the Capital Chemists Group, Andrew Topp and Danielle Campbell, will share their accounts of the bushfires on the South Coast of NSW in December-January.


Andrew Topp was astounded and humbled by the actions of his colleagues and pharmacy staff beyond the call of duty when the bushfires hit. Mr Topp is Group Business Manager of the Capital Chemist Group which has a number of pharmacies along the NSW South Coast, with 10 pharmacies in the areas hit by the fires.

Mr Topp said pharmacists worked tirelessly in evacuation centres to help patients and in some cases set up makeshift depots, ferrying products to evacuation centres to provide essential medicines and help to those who had lost or left behind their medicines and prescriptions.


“In these centres pharmacists worked with patients, prescribers and emergency personnel, which  underscores the need to include community pharmacies in any future disaster planning,” he said.


“The efforts of our pharmacists in this emergency made me very proud of our group and our staff,” Mr Topp said.

 

Danielle Campbell, proprietor of Narooma Pharmacy, and her staff were caught up in the fires that surged along the coast around New Year’s Eve.


“We opened on New Year’s Eve and were flooded with customers because people were aware that the fires were coming and wanted to prepare for them,” she said.


“We soon lost power and were working by our phone torches which was very difficult, so we closed, threw supplies into the car and headed to the evacuation centre”.


Ms Campbell said the situation inside the evacuation centre was tense as many people didn’t know if they had lost their homes, where their families or loved ones were, or if they were safe.


“My staff were amazing. It was community spirit at its best and I am so proud of all the Narooma Pharmacy staff,” she said.


Mr Topp and Ms Campbell will feature in a session at APP on Thursday 19 March.

13 FEB 2020

Black Summer: Australia's 2019/2020 bushfire season - a community pharmacy perspective

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