Meet a local – Macleay Valley pharmacist Greg Hollier
Coastbeat chats with proud Kempsey resident Greg Hollier about his local community, running a pharmacy during these strange times and learns why, from a professional standpoint, his role has never felt more important.
Amcal Max’s History
20 years ago, a young pharmaceutical graduate and his wife (with whom love had blossomed over a holiday romance at South West Rocks) made their first investment; purchasing a pharmacy in Greg’s hometown of Kempsey. The Holliers were buying into a business that had been continually operating since 1876.
Two decades on, Greg and Kellie Hollier work side by side at Amcal Max Kempsey servicing the community they love. Their daughter Grace is also lending a helping hand before heading off to university next year.
Greg tells me that Kempsey is a wonderful town to own a pharmacy because people are so loyal. “We’re treated like family by our community.” I can’t help but wonder, given the choice of five pharmacies in town, if longevity accounts for such loyalty? “It’s more about the strength of the relationship we have with our customers”, Greg responds. “People place great trust in us and when they know that they can count on you, that trusting relationship builds.”
Such trust has never been as evident as during this pandemic and it’s been a hectic time for Greg and the pharmacy’s team.
Kempsey’s Local Health Hub
“Understandably, customers were initially very anxious, many still are. From a professional perspective, I’ve never felt that my job is more important than it has been over the past few weeks. Far fewer people have been able to see doctors face to face to allay their fears. Yes, they may have been talking to medical staff over the phone but in a way, there has been extra responsibility on our shoulders as people look to us for reassurance.”
Locals seek Greg out as an expert and I’m sure that that is true of pharmacists everywhere. Greg appreciates that he is a trusted voice, but he is also quick to acknowledge that we’re all learning as we go.
“I certainly don’t overstate what I know. I simply reassure people and tell them the right things to do to prevent coming into contact with the virus. Many people who come into the pharmacy just want to know we’re going to be there for them. We’ve long been part of their everyday lives and that brings them comfort. A sense of normality is particularly comforting when so much else around them is changing.”
For some, it is a very lonely time and being able to interact with those friendly faces you know is hugely important. Greg agrees, “Many of the elderly we see have been extremely lonely and with venturing out to buy medication permitted during this time, doing so has also resulted in that vital social connection, often imperative for good mental health.”
Greg is always thinking of his local community, especially those most vulnerable and with such unknowns in the early days of the pandemic, there was certainly concerns on his part.
“I’m concerned every time the flu hits. We lose frail and elderly patients every year and I wasn’t sure how different this was going to compare to the regular flu. We’re so lucky here in Australia with how things have gone. I was certainly concerned but I didn’t want to panic because I really didn’t know all of the information.”
In the early days, many people wanted to stay home for extended periods of time and sought to stockpile medications as a result but like all pharmacists, Greg had to adhere to the Federal Government restrictions (i.e. asthma puffers limited to one and no more than one month of medication for individuals. “Of course, we adhered to those guidelines or the stock situation would’ve been terrible and that in turn, could have a devasting impact.”
Amcal Max’s New Normal
Like many business owners regionally, nationally and globally, there have been adjustments at Amcal Kempsey to cater to the new normal such as more free deliveries, implementing social distancing in store, installing sneeze guards to protect staff and an order and collect service for those wishing to avoid coming into the store.
Like all of us, Greg, Kellie and their two teenage children are at home together, grateful to be safe and well but all the while looking forward to when they can socialise with friends and make plans for what they really love – enjoying an overseas skiing holiday as a family.
“I understand that for the moment it’s very important for me to be here and support the community but to be able to travel again would be absolutely wonderful.”
Here’s hoping that it’s not long before the Holliers are hitting the slopes again under sunny skies before returning to the place they’ll always call home – the beautiful Macleay Valley Coast.