BRUCE Warland spent more than three decades as Kojonup's pharmacist and his service to rural health and contribution to the local community won't soon be forgotten.
Retiring earlier this year, Mr Warland said he initially chose to set up his pharmacy in Kojonup because it was cheaper and there was less competition for a pharmacy based in the country than the city.
Having grown up on a dairy farm in Mooroopna, Victoria, Mr Warland relocated to Western Australia when he was 16 years of age and spent some time on a Mt Barker farm before studying pharmacy in Perth.
While he had no ambition to be a farmer, Mr Warland said his rural background had shaped him as a young adult and was probably a contributing factor to why he chose to set himself up in the Great Southern region.
"The nature of pharmacy is that you spend all of your time within four walls, so I figured that I didn't have to be in Broome or Australind - I could be in Kojonup and enjoy my pharmacy," Mr Warland said,
Three months after he moved to Kojonup, Mr Warland met his future wife, Judith, who was a registered nurse and who helped him out at his pharmacy over the years.
As the couple grew their family, with all three of their children now based in Perth, Mr Warland bore witness to changes in the pharmacy industry, most of which he said had been positive.
"Initially I did three years in Three Springs and, at that stage, the local hospitals and medications came from a central warehouse in Perth, so I wrote letters to the (health) department suggesting they utilise local pharmacies to maintain medication for local hospitals, but nothing happened," Mr Warland said.
"It was only years later, when I bought the Kojonup pharmacy, that I found I was supplying medicines to people in the local hospital."
Mr Warland said pharmacists had become more involved in the medical scene more recently, now having the ability to provide vaccinations as well as Webster packs (a medication pack that has different slots for different times of the day) so that customers take their medications correctly and also don't run out of their medication when travelling.
"We provide those Webster packs to the aged care facility in Kojonup, Springhaven Lodge, and we also used to for the hospital, so pharmacies have really become a critical piece of infrastructure," Mr Warland said.
"The carer at Springhaven can then legally administer the medication to the residents there - it doesn't have to be a registered nurse, and that gives them a lot more flexibility with their staff and it also saves them all the time and all this effort of running their own pharmacy."
Mr Warland said by administrating the Webster packs for customers within his local community, it meant he got to see them on a weekly basis and build a rapport with them.
There have also been events that would only happen in a country town, with Mr Warland vaccinating a whole shearing team after hours at 6.30pm on a Friday, as requested by a local shearing co-ordinator.
Mr Warland and his locum, Sally McMahon ran the local COVID-19 vaccination clinic, and between August 2021 and the beginning of February this year, they administered 780 COVID-19 shots.
"There was a couple of times when we had COVID vaccines prepared that were going to go out of date, so we went into the pub next door and announced we had them ready to go and that whoever needed them should come back to the pharmacy with us - so we had four or five people come back and get their shot," Mr Warland said.
His efforts resulted in Kojonup having one of the highest vaccination rates in regional WA.
The saying 'if you love what you do, you'll never have to work a day in your life' rings true for this country pharmacist, with Mr Warland extraordinarily only having ever taken one sick day over his 32-year career.
"That was when I was skiing out at Moodiarrup Lake and I fell off one of my skis and broke a rib, so I had to go to hospital for a day - but that was the only time," Mr Warland said.
"I'm just grateful that I've had good health, as that's certainly an issue regarding rural pharmacy - you always have to be there."
When asked about the challenges he faced as a rural pharmacist, Mr Warland said maintaining his qualifications and continuing his education sometimes proved to be difficult, as it would usually require some travel to Perth or Albany.
"Being isolated was another issue too - I didn't have my fellow pharmacists to really talk to, so I felt a little bit alone at times," Mr Warland said.
Overall however, Mr Warland said he thought rural pharmacy offered an attractive lifestyle and given the opportunity, he wouldn't trade any of it.
"I got to walk to work each day and in a country pharmacy you really get to be a part of the local community," Mr Warland said.
"I really enjoyed the people that came in each day - and that's the main reason I stayed."
The Nationals WA member for Roe Peter Rundle acknowledged Mr Warland's service to the community of Kojonup and rural health in parliament last month.
"Bruce went to extraordinary lengths to keep the pharmacy doors open to his community for nearly one-third of the pharmacy's 95- year history," Mr Rundle said.
"Since 1989, the pharmacy has closed during working hours for only a total of nine hours.
"We have all lived through the difficulties of attracting health professionals to regional WA, so this community knows how lucky it is to have had a friendly, familiar, caring and dedicated professional who was their first port of call for health care.
"Bruce heads into retirement well respected and a much-loved member of the Kojonup community."
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