Park Avenue Pharmacy's David Metcalf and staff, with David's robotic assistant.
Park Avenue Pharmacy's David Metcalf and staff, with David's robotic assistant. Sue Germany

Out of the box: Pharmacy focuses on aged care in Coffs

A Pharmacy degree in the 80s has led David Metcalf of Park Avenue Pharmacy on a whole lot of different paths - including coming to Coffs Harbour.

He has worked in hospitals and pharmacies and travelled overseas, and while he is back in a pharmacy again that doesn't mean what he does is quite so straight forward as just dispensing drugs.

"We focus on general pharmacy, but we are also heavily focused on the age care sector and providing Webster boxes for nine local age-care facilities," David explained.

"We service more than 800 aged care residents in and around Coffs Harbour as well as Bellingen and Urunga," he said.

"We do about two and a half thousand Webster packs a week."

And all that is from a small pharmacy in Park Avenue; with a staff of 14.

"Our staff includes a couple of delivery drivers, four front of shop staff and eight back of shop working on the nursing home delivery," he said.

For the uninitiated Webster Boxes provide a weeks' worth of medication for the customer all set out in daily packs marked with breakfast, lunch, dinner and night allowing the patient to no exactly what they have to take and when.

He said this is particularly handy for those people who for various reasons must take between 20 to 30 tablets a day.

As well as the human staff, the pharmacy's dispensing room out the back is semi-automated with a robot arm in place to help out. It's not what you would expect at a small local pharmacy but then David Metcalf has never travelled the normal path.

Relocating to Coffs in the mid-1990s he worked in the Oncology Pharmacy at the Base Hospital before moving more into hospital administration and doing a master's in health. In 2016 he went to Buenos Aires to attend an international advisory board to discuss the global roll out of biosimilars.

Biosimilars are generic medicines of biologics used to manage illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis and serious inflammatory bowel disease.

However, like all new medicines, the long-term effectiveness on the drugs isn't well researched.

David said the advisory board was the beginning of safe global policy on how biosimilars are handled and dealt with at the community pharmacy level.

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