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Island life on offer for locum pharmacists
by Denise Piper. Thursday 16 October 2014
Published in Pharmacy Today

Pharmacists who want to "get away from the rat race" are being encouraged to take a working holiday on Great Barrier Island.

Great Barrier Pharmacy is looking for a pool of locums, and offers free accommodation in a holiday setting for those willing to take on the challenge.

The pharmacy was set up 21 years ago by Mike Gardiner, who wanted a lifestyle as well as a pharmacy business.

Great Barrier Pharmacy founder Mike Gardiner and pharmacist Dennis Booth encourage locums to take a working holiday

About two years ago, Mr Gardiner sold the pharmacy to the Northland Community Pharmacy Group - a business, majority owned by three pharmacists, which owns two other pharmacies in Whangarei.

He continued working in the pharmacy until finally retiring, at age 76, in September.

Great Barrier's main pharmacist is now Dennis Booth, whose wife and two children live in Whangarei.

In order to get some time off the island, Mr Booth hopes to set up a roster of locums to help out.

The hours of work are not too onerous, as the pharmacy is open from 9am to 1pm, four days a week.

"It's a whole other way of life," Mr Booth says.

While the pharmacy is officially part of Auckland DHB, it does not have the problem of Auckland traffic, he says.

In fact, there is no need to commute to work, with humble accommodation offered at the back of the pharmacy.

The store and attached accommodation are going through an ongoing upgrade, and now have carpet, a potbelly fireplace and hot water, Mr Booth says.

He even replaced the outdoor shower with an indoor one, for locums who might want a bit of privacy.

The pharmacy also has internet, cellphone reception and TV.

"I'd like to think it's a place where pharmacists could come to replenish," Mr Booth says.

Help at hand for locums

Locums will not be left completely on their own, as the pharmacy also employs trainee technician Andrea van Cuylenburg.

After spending 25 years in commercial banking, Mrs van Cuylenburg moved to the island with her husband, who works as a pilot and engineer.

She started with the pharmacy about 18 months ago and now knows all the ins and outs of running the island pharmacy.

"It has its challenges. You have to freight in everything and have to work with weather constraints."

Knowing all the pharmacy's patients on a first-name basis and relying on island ingenuity to get medicines through is part of the appeal of working on Great Barrier, Mrs van Cuylenburg says.

Other island quirks are more humorous: "One customer turned up with a goat, asking for medicine for indigestion," she says.

The pharmacy is also supported by the Northland Community Pharmacy Group's other pharmacies.

The store has been set up so it can open if no pharmacist is available, with prescriptions faxed to Whangarei and flown over the next day.

Resourcefulness necessary attribute

Any locum interested in the working holiday will have to be resourceful, as filling the generator and monitoring the batteries is part of the job, Mr Booth says.

But it is part of the charm of island life, he believes.

"It's not just going to the office and doing 300 scripts a day, you have to make sure the power's going and you've got diesel."

Locums also need to be wary about the roads on Great Barrier, as two locums have written off cars on their first day: one crashing into a truck and another landing in the tide.

Anyone interested can contact Great Barrier Pharmacy by email or phone (09) 429-0006.

* Denise Piper's trip to Great Barrier Island was paid for by Pharmacy Today

This article has been reproduced with permission by Denise Piper.  Subject to copyright in its entirety.