March ’11 Article in IP

Life turns full circle

I was pondering the current situation in community pharmacy as I am prone to. I was trying to think of ways that we as pharmacists can help ourselves. The election will be all done and dusted by the time that this goes to print but it I think that I can reliably say that community pharmacy will get little assistance from any new government, no matter what it’s shade, be it blue, green or red. We have to look to ourselves. And to do this we need to talk to each other. And herein lies the problem. Pharmacy up to very recently has been professionally solitary. For the most part we operate as only one pharmacist per pharmacy. Yes we have other support staff but for the greater part of our working lives we are on our own. Websites such as are a great resource for certain parts of the profession. But for the best contact you still cannot beat meeting each other face to face.

On a local scale this can be served by the regional meetings of the IPU. But these are by their nature only local and apart from the subject of the meeting the sharing of information is confined to to bar afterwards. Many moons ago when I was more heavily involved with the IPU I was a regular attender at the national AGMs. (This was probably a good idea as I was Treasurer for a number of years.) They all invariably followed the same format. Every second year it was held outside of Dublin. Then in election years it was held in Dublin. There might be a round of golf organised for Saturday (great if you are a golfer) and a bit of a dinner dance in the evening. One thing that always struck me at these affairs was the age profile. My then girlfriend, later wife and I were at least a half a generation younger than the bulk of the other attendees. As time progressed it also clashed with our wedding anniversary. No prizes for guessing which won out. Suffice to say that I haven’t been much of an attender at the national AGMs lately. And now it looks as if the circle of life is turning. I will be one of the more senior members of the profession. For despite my youthful(!) appearance I will have 28 years experience as a pharmacist and over 30 years working in community pharmacy by the time of the next AGM. I now run the risk of being one of the elder lemons of Irish Pharmacy.

But that looks like changing this year. The powers that be have put their heads together and come up with something worth attending. A quick look at and you can see what they have organised. The first thing that caught my eye was the gala dinner with Senator David Norris as guest speaker. He has the dubious distinction of being the first politician that I voted for who was actually elected. (Seanad election 1987) Having heard him many times in various media I’ve no doubt that he will make for an extremely interesting speaker. When I mentioned this to my current wife her first reaction was “What is there for the wives?” Before any charge of sexism I should say in my defence that accompanying partners were invariably female. Any male partners of pharmacists seemed to have better things to do when the AGM was on. At least this time the partners can spend their Saturday being pampered in the spa of the Lyrath Estate Hotel while their better halves are improving their minds with the array of Continuing Education sessions that have been organised. There is also a range of business related topics being covered for those who feel that they can only take so much medically based subjects. And if there is a clash of topics that you want to sit in on then the whole program is repeated in the afternoon.

Despite all these wonderful sessions I still hear talk of golf on Saturday. Perhaps these pharmacists feel that they know enough about matters pharmaceutical and business topics that they can afford to waste their day chasing a little ball all around county Kilkenny.

All of the above will make this years AGM a much more interesting affair that previous years and well worth attending. But there’s more! The AGM itself will be held at 10AM on the Sunday morning. The schedule aims to have it finished by 12 noon. I think that this is quite clever. After the gala dinner on Saturday night many of the attendees will still be in bed at 12 noon. It might just be the case for many that they will attend an AGM weekend and miss the AGM itself. They will be rising just in time to attend panel discussion on current pharmacy issues. To assist this session will be chaired by Ivan Yates, ex Minister for Agriculture and current presenter of the Breakfast Show on Newstalk FM. This promises to be a very interesting exchange of information and views that can only benefit all those attending. There will also be a seminar for employee pharmacists and the AGM of the Benevolent Fund. They have just announced their annual draw and despite it’s associations with the PSI I would call on you all to support the Benevolent Fund. Of it’s nature and necessity most of the work goes unreported. But it is still worthy of our support nonetheless.

There has been a shortage of really good chances for pharmacists to meet up over the last few years. The PSI’s monster transformation into a “Regulator” meant that it’s AGM is now gone. Pharmacists in Ireland have needed a get together with a nice mix of professional, business and social. I think that this years IPU AGM fits the description.

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